2.16.2017

emo kids having emo kids

"Nobody likes me. No one wants to play with me." When he begins those words with a gradually increasing quiver in his voice, my entire being shatters. Eventually, he moves on to other things and that loud, overpowering laughter and zest for life takes over. For him. I find myself up at all hours of the night, feeling his pain and sorrow over every ounce of my body and wishing I could will it away.

In so many ways, he is so much like me. (I'm wincing as I type that.) Throughout my entire pregnancy, I wished he may wind up a little bit more like his father in terms of resiliency and confidence and the ability to not be ripped to shreds over someone else's bad day. Instead, as it would turn out, he is just like me. ("I don't want to go to a regular college where they do math, like the one daddy went to," he told me the other day. "I want to go to an art college and write stories and poems and paint.")

Today I dropped him off at school and he clutched my hand for the first time in weeks. "Come with me on the playground," he said. "You'll be the only one who likes me and wants to play with me." I resisted the urge to shatter into a million shards of devastation and instead followed him to the playground -- where four children ran up and engulfed him in hugs. "There's my hug monster," one shouted with a giggle in her voice. "Oh boy," he said. "I'm just so much fun to hug," he explained to me with a glimmer in his eyes. "Want to play with me?" asked another girl from another class, grabbing his hand before he could even happily accept. "You can go, mommy," he yelled as he and his new friend ran across the playground. I tried to convince myself to leave without stopping his teacher and pleading with her to assure me that he is as well liked as this morning proved. I have no willpower, but she assured me that he is well loved.

--

If I try hard enough, I can still remember being a kid and hoping with all my might that no one would speak to me for the duration of the school day. Ethan longs to be included but lacks the confidence to ask for inclusion -- and, boy, so I understand his apprehension. (And irrationality, and falling to pieces, and so on.) As we approach this phase in parenthood -- this new, shiny end to infancy and at-all-times protection -- I'm trying to find in myself the confidence that I lacked through every phase of my own life until now. Now it is up to me to find it, confidence, and wear it like an armor to shield my own child from the same struggles and troubles that plagued me when I was in his shoes. And while I may not be able to protect him entirely from those struggles and troubles or prevent them from happening, I can simply remain conscious to not dismiss them and give him the best tools to push on through the fog. We are stronger together, the two of us, and may that bond be one he carries forever as close to his heart as I do.



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2.08.2017

introducing new thin stix, solid tempera paint sticks by the pencil grip, inc.

Ethan loves to draw and paint. He will literally sit and work on his paintings for hours, and the walls of my entire house are basically lined in his masterpieces. In fact, on our entire cross-country roadtrip last October, he happily drew the entire way (and back). Because neither my husband nor I have any artistic skills or instincts, we've had to do our research to find out how to best nurture Ethan's absolute love for art. This past holiday season, we saw an ad for Kwik Stix -- solid tempera paint twist-up sticks -- and ordered him a set. Much to our surprise, several other friends and relatives also purchased Ethan some Kwik Stix in various shades and finishes (he's partial to the metallic, he wanted me to point that out).

It didn't take him long at all to fall in love with Kwik Stix. They became a perfect independent art opportunity for him without needing to pour paint, rinse the brushes and get his supplies out. They were the perfect opportunity to fit in some painting before school or an errand when time is sparse and we can't really afford to leave the house completely covered head-to-toe in paint. Kwik Stix dry in only 90 seconds, which is an added bonus for little artists who are proud to display their artwork.

I was thrilled when Kwik Stix contacted us about the opportunity to try out their new Thin Stix. Much like the Kwik Stix that came before them, Thin Stix are also solid tempera paint sticks that dry in only 90 seconds. However, they're thinner and help children achieve finer details (and also a perfect pencil grip). With the Thin Stix, Ethan was able to add more detail into his artwork without having to grab a fine point marker to fill in the necessary details.

And, yes, to answer the question we get a lot: they really are paint.

The Thin Stix have become a staple in Ethan's art making, which is pretty much a constant in our every day. We are currently experiencing cabin fever from a bout of strep throat that has taken down our entire family and Ethan has happily spent hours creating art during our newfound downtime.

Ethan is hooked on his Thin Stix (which are AP certified, meaning they're safe and non-toxic for even the littlest artists) and is excited about the opportunity to get to share a set with a lucky winner! Follow the steps below to enter to win a 12-pack set of Thin Stix solid tempera paint sticks for the pint-sized Picassos in your life!

If you can't wait to get your hands on a set of Kwik Stix or Thin Stix (which is totally understandable), I'm excited to say that they're all available on Amazon -- happy shopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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1.30.2017

home

My husband and I bought our house just about nine years ago now. I was 22 and he was newly 23 when we snatched up "the smallest lot in our sought after neighborhood," which was the house hunting pro-tip everyone sent us out into the real world with. We knew the area we wanted to buy in, knew the schools we wanted our future children to attend -- and we also knew we were fresh out of school with virtually no real life experience or resumes that could be considered remotely impressive (see also: we had no idea how to be adults). But then our there our house was, the fabled smallest lot in our sought after neighborhood. There it was, with it's disastrous roof and foreclosure chic interior. It became ours and each evening we reveled in it's vastness. Our home. A real house in the suburbs, in a neighborhood where the laughter of children permeates through the afternoon air. We decorated our home the only way we knew how: by buying real furniture from real furniture stores that was meant for big, gigantic houses and not the compact apartment spaces we were used to during our college years.

We were married the following year and, two short years after that, brought home Ethan to this very house. It's funny how the addition of an eight pound, four ounce infant shows you a thing or two about perceived home sizes. Our "just big enough" home quickly showed us just, in fact, how small it really was. With small babies come big things, and with toddlers come big messes, and with preschoolers come even bigger things that make even bigger messes. (And with cats who have claws comes the inability to ever have nice things regardless so, you know.) When Wylie died and my will to live plummeted, I put everything I had into a proposed house revamp. I needed something to focus on that wasn't infertility, that wasn't injections into my stomach or physicians scraping my insides out and spewing statistics at me about the chances I have to add another urn to my shelf. I didn't get very far, short of some paint swatches here and there and just slightly taking apart the kitchen. Carmen joined us and my desire to redo and rebuild was replaced by my desire to mother this incredible, radiant addition to our family. With gratitude and fullness and completion comes the desire to nest, and I decided on a whim that now it was time to make this house a home. I trashed our entirely-too-big sectional this weekend and replaced it with small, compact couches. With Ethan in school and Carmen napping, I took everything off the wall and out of the closets and am knee-deep in some purge-and-rearrange obsession (which currently makes it impossible to stand in my dining room) because I totally didn't have enough on my plate already, or something. We are ordering new window treatments and curtains and throw pillows and sell and swap and repeat.

I can remember signing those papers to make this house ours. I can remember coming home from our honeymoon and crashing on the entirely-too-big sectional. I can remember ordering our entirely-too-big dining room table with the bench seating for the four children I just knew we would have, plus room for their friends. But by now, we've gotten a hang of this adult thing, for the most part. We will never have four children and with that mourning comes the acceptance, the feeling of wholeness (or as close to it as possible) of knowing that the dynamic duo I have ransacking my clean floors have completed us in a different way than originally planned -- but completed us nonetheless. Next, I will say goodbye to the entirely-too-big table with the entirely-too-much bench seating and as I watch things make their way to new homes, new hopeful families, new destinations, I am finding solace in my own.

We have the house. We have the family. And now it's simply time to make it a home.



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1.26.2017

gratitude

Like just about everyone else, I'm completely hooked on This Is Us. I think it's the first show that my husband and I have actually watched together since Queer as Folk was still on the air. Like, when we were in high school. It's just a good show, for starters, and then there's that whole infant loss-transracial adoption thing that ties eerily close into our own lives. In the short time I've been an adoptive parent, I've been perplexed by some of the attitudes towards adoption from the outside world, most of which are portrayed on the show. There's that whole pesky white savior thing, which is another issue for another time. And then there's this expectation of gratitude from the adoptee at all times.


"And all I was supposed to feel was grateful."
-Randall Pearson

I hear that a lot, people who baby-talk at Carmen and ask into her smiling face, "do you know how lucky you are? You should be so thankful." But, to my sweet, strong daughter, I just want to say that I reject this expectation of gratitude. I tear it up and set it on fire and dispose of it with haste.

My love, I want you to breathe fire. I want you to make your voice heard and move mountains and know the power and validity of dissent. I want you to soar and break barriers and shatter glass ceilings. I want you to be every bit as spunky, headstrong and determined at fifteen as you are now, at ten months old. A few days ago at the beach, you tried to crawl into the ocean, intrigued by the vastness of the sea and the way the wind whipped the saltwater from the waves. You wanted to explore it, all of it, not once being fearful of the unfamiliarity or the spray of salty water onto your face. I want you to always be that way, always so eager to learn and grow and understand things instead of fearful of their newness.

I want you to be thirteen and angry with me, as I so often was with my mother, for a parenting decision that you can't understand at the time but later will. I want you to be upset when I tell you no at the store. I want you to meet your disappointments with tears and all of the feelings that I expect, encourage and nurture in a child like your brother who was born from my own body. Feel the world, sweet girl. See color and feel it, all of it, deep inside your bones. Rise against the oppression and those who pass laws and build barriers against you. Feel angry at injustice and feel saddened by things you cannot control. Feel everything and anything you must, my love, with the exception of gratitude towards me. You owe me nothing in life, but there is so much that I owe you. Do not thank me for something as basic as loving you, for something like signing a legal document that gives you my last name. How is someone supposed to be thanked for something as normal as breathing, thanked for being human? Of course I loved you. Who couldn't love you? Who couldn't see the difference that your eyes and heart and smile make in the world?

In the immortal words of Jack Pearson, everyone's new favorite television dad: "You weren’t a choice. You are a fact.”

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1.10.2017

the second-first day

Today was Ethan's second first day of school. He did a brief two week stint last fall at a school that I carefully selected yet became very obvious (very quickly) that it was a horrible fit for him in actuality. From the moment I first dropped him off at his last school, I sat with tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach until the moment I could retrieve him. He would return home rattled with tales of yelling and classroom free-for-alls that made my stomach drop (my best friend took my anxiety down a notch by telling me to imagine Ethan as Jim from The Office, looking into the camera while these antics happened around him). I did not have the same dread when we toured this new school, which happens to be a smaller Montessori even closer to our home.

Selfishly, I am not ready to say goodbye to my at-home time with Ethan. I have spent the past five years growing accustomed to ten a.m. park playdates or midweek zoo trips. Five years is a long time to suddenly have to pull away from the only way of life you truly know. Of course, time changes things and children grow older (yes, I'm singing Landslide in my head, too). Ethan has been bored at our ten a.m. park playdates as the only options for playmates are two year olds who are not yet enrolled in school. He wanted so badly to be part of a classroom and a school environment again and I just keep telling myself that my plan was always to follow his lead. When he was not ready for school, I happily warded off the nosy strangers wondering why my four year old was at home with me still. When he decided he was ready, my plan was to let him soar with the greatness I know he is capable of. I've always believed that following his lead is the best thing I can possibly do for him -- even if letting go and stepping into the next stage of life hurts my heart. I teared up just a little bit as I walked to my car this morning, asking Carmen what in the world we should do until it's time to pick up her brother.

But the strangest thing happened at drop off today, too: it felt okay. The pit in my stomach was not there, no matter how hard I tried to seek it out. I did not have that maternal urge to fling myself over him to protect him from the (non-existent) yelling. Instead, I dropped him off into a beautiful Montessori classroom where love, kindness and warmth permeated through the air. He was immediately greeted by his kind teacher and escorted to an activity by a sweet classmate. "Okay, you can say bye now," Ethan said without looking up from the activity he and his new classmate were doing together. They were about to begin morning yoga. And then I felt it: the peace. This fit was perfect. This school felt made for Ethan, and made for our family, and nothing seemed as catastrophic as it did a few months ago.

Once we dropped Ethan off, Carmen and I went to the park. Sitting there enjoying the nice breeze with Carmen as she worked on pulling up on the equipment bars and trying to stand unassisted, I realized again just how fast it all goes. It feels like yesterday Ethan and I had years left of our free, meandering days. I know that right now it feels like Carmen and I have all of the time in the world for this freedom and stage of life, but now I know that's not true at all. I will blink and she will be starting school and it'll be an entirely different phase of life for us to navigate. Not bad, of course, but different. I like to think that I cherished every second of Ethan's time at home with me but I will make it my mission to be sure I never, ever take a moment of Carmen's time at home for granted.

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