Six!

To my sweet, Sunshine girl,

It’s that day of the year again where I express my disbelief that you are another year older.

You continue to grow into your own person. You’re a friendly girl who can make friends with anyone. You will talk about a random kid that you met on the playground as if they have been your lifelong friend. And, speaking of lifelong friends, you are a dedicated and loving friend to the handful of girls and boys that you’ve known longer than you can remember. I love that you know exactly who these friends are and thoughtfully plan activities to make them feel the most comfortable.

You live life big, loud and colorful. You start daily family dance parties in the living room.  You’ll sing any song that is stuck in your head repeatedly no matter where we happen to be. You are not afraid to wear bright colors, mix patterns and be exactly who you want to be. I’ve started taking pictures of your hands which are always covered in colorful marker from your latest drawing. The attention to detail that you put into every piece you do impresses me to no end. I can’t bear to recycle any of it and the pile is growing out of control.

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Your imagination knows no limits. You play veterinarian, daycare, school and many other careers in your bedroom with your dolls and stuffies. You are so curious about the world and ask questions that often can’t be easily answered. You keep our minds sharp

This year has been full of big changes. You moved on from daycare to kindergarten and had to say “see you later” to some really good friends. You’ve navigated new halls, new teachers, new rules and new friends. It hasn’t been the easiest on you but you’re growing and learning how to take on these challenges. Your dad and I are so proud of you.

Monkey see, monkey do is a common phrase in our house as your little brother follows you around and tries to copy everything you do. He comes running every time you yell, “Kippy!” You’ve taught him to karate kick, complete with a “hi-ya.” Thanks to you he is finally wearing hard soled shoes. My heart melts when the two of you cuddle, just for a minute, before one or the other of you runs off to the next thing. I know he can be annoying. He steals your toys and sneaks into your room to mess up the imaginative scene you have created with your toys. You are the best big sister and Kip is so lucky to have you as a role model and playmate.

I don’t know how to fully express in words how much your dad and I love you. It’s more than the biggest bear hug that we can give. Watching you grow into your own person is one of the very best things in my life. Don’t ever stop taking up your own space, being loud, being colorful and being exactly who you want to be.

I love you Sunshine girl.

Mom

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Eight Years, Two Kids and Love

“Happy Anniversary” was yelled from across the room as we tag team caring for a feverish toddler and working from home. At least we didn’t entirely forget it this year as we have once in the past. I knew it was coming. I even made a reservation, a month from now, at a fancy restaurant downtown. It was a summer camp registration reminder that made me look at the date and remember that it was special.

All consumed with keeping two children alive it is hard to remember the days before this when there was time for us. Romance was something more than a hug in the kitchen, messy with dinner dishes. Support was more than a knowing look over a tantruming child. Dates were spur of the moment decisions to try to get a seat at one of the newer restaurants in town instead of reservations at 5:30pm at a restaurant no longer considered new and a $100 babysitter at home.

The usual anniversary testaments on social media say something like, “You are amazing. I am amazing, We are amazing together and it keeps getting better and better.” Well, you are (mostly) amazing. I am (mostly) amazing. We are (mostly) amazing together. It is pretty good but it is (often) not better and that is okay. It is different. We are real people and this is real life and I’m committed to keeping life real for the random people out there who might read this.

It’s not all a depressing story.

We love each other as much, if not more, than we have before. Each year we grow as our own person and watching someone grow and find who they really are is an amazing bonding experience. I’m proud of who you are. I’m proud of your strength, the challenges you have taken on to grow professionally and personally, your empathy, your creative personality and the amazing father you are. I know down to my core how proud you are of me. I’m secure that you support who I am and my personal growth. I know that you will nod along as I describe the next thing that I want to take on while gently reminding me that maaaaybe this isn’t the right time. You step up and take on stuff at home when I inevitably do the thing that I probably don’t have time for. (Trust me, I am working on saying no!) You are my shoulder to cry on and a confidant with good and practical advice. I’m so proud of all we have achieved together.

We laugh together every day. Usually at the absurdity of life right now. You’ve taught our children some of the goofiest things that they know. The things that make me giggle and make that ridiculous heart shape with my hands.

We still hold hands while we walk down the street on our rare dates. We cuddle on the couch while we binge watch the shows that everyone else watched two years ago. We bond over long conversations about podcasts, the thing you read on Twitter or the thing I heard on MPR.

Our marriage therapist says that we are really good together so that must mean we are doing something right. (If you are a random person reading this and want to know the secret to a good marriage: therapy. Individual and couples. Don’t wait until things are bad. They prevent the bad.)

And now the sappy part.

Eight crazy, crazy years of marriage! Where has time gone? Happy Anniversary! Thank you for all the good, the bad and the in-between. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. I’m proud of you, I’m proud of me, I’m proud of us and I love you.

Remember, its only 18 more years until we move to a two-bedroom condo in the North Loop where we will go to shows and eat at the new restaurants again and travel to all those places on our list.

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To Kip on his First Birthday

Hi Sweet Boy,

We like to think that I went into active labor just after midnight because you didn’t want to share your dad’s birthday. You wasted no time when you decided it was time. It wasn’t long before I had you in my arms.

The nurses at the hospital would say, “He only wants mom.”, as they transitioned shifts. It was true, I couldn’t set you down for a moment of rest. At the time I thought it was a typical newborn. I should have known the nurses could see things I couldn’t. We spent the next three months glued together. You would do your best to make sure your forehead was pressed against my lips. Your tiny hand would stroke (pull) my hair. Day or night this was your comfort place. We tried four bassinets to see if anything would help you sleep on your own. You’ll still take any opportunity to get into our bed if you can.

Still snuggly, you have grown into our little bear. You greet us after daycare with a hug and open mouthed kisses. You wave to your teachers. “Adios! I’m going home.”

Bedtime is my favorite time with you. It took awhile for you to be into books. You had too much to explore. When we read goodnight moon you try to turn past the black and white pages to see the colors. Your head on my shoulder as we sing, “You are my sunshine” is my what really makes this time special. If I can have one thing as you grow, it would be that you never stop doing this.

You have a laugh that everyone loves. No one can resist joining in when they hear it. Your sister can get them out of you better than anyone. You are her number one fan but she is also yours. We get nervous about her rough and tumble ways with you but you can take her on and you love it.

I’m in awe of the way you figure out the world around you. Trial and error in what seems like very deliberate plans. Your tiny brain creating experiments for how you might navigate the dining room chairs through the many small doorways in our house and back again. With a few bumps and stops you’ve figured out how to move around the chair to get the right angle. Our furniture is never in the right place now.

It’s hard to believe you’ve been here in our arms a year. It’s been fast but also feels like you’ve been here forever. You fit right in, our snuggly, little bear.

We love you, Kip Gerrard!

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I’m not celebrating America today

It’s the Fourth of July. I’m enjoying day two of five days off of work. I’m enjoying time with my family and friends. I’m enjoying good food and warm weather. I’m celebrating all of this. But I am not celebrating America.

Yesterday I saw pictures of desperate people packed into cages. There was a baby being held by an adult behind chain link fence. Last week I cried on the way to work as a reporter described the conditions that children were being kept in. Babies taking care of babies because no one else will. Homeland Security audited daycare teachers. My friends and neighbors of color are further marginalized and treated as criminals for living normal lives. Women’s rights are being eroded by whit men. I can’t turn my back on these

One of the most recognizable symbols of the country says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We don’t mean that though. We’re closing our borders. Shutting them out. Caging them in conditions that would get you arrested if you did it to animals.

Hard working people, citizens or not, documented or not, are moving our economy forward with their labor. They pay taxes like the rest of us but don’t enjoy the same freedoms. The police we all pay for treat me with friendly smiles and them with handcuffs or worse.

I’m an American citizen, born and raised in Minnesota. I’ve marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in the Fourth of July parade. I’ve watched the fireworks light the sky behind the Washington monument on the mall. I’ve felt a sense of pride for being an American citizen. Something I had to do nothing to achieve. But I don’t today.

We’ve never been a perfect country but we’ve been been better. I’m disgusted that our president and his supporters think that spending $2 million of park service money to roll tanks around is valuable while people sit in cages. I’m disgusted by the way my fellow citizens of color are marginalized and criminalized. I’m disgusted that white men are slowly taking away women’s rights. I’m just disgusted and that isn’t a mood that sparks celebration.

Enjoy the fireworks, your family and friends, the warm weather and the good food. Celebrate that you have all these things. Think about what you can do for those that don’t. I’ll call my representatives (again) and ask them what they are celebrating for. I’ll give money to organizations that provide legal support to those impacted by the policies that disgust me. And I’ll keep fighting to make my country something I can be proud of.

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Exhausted Time – The End of Maternity Leave

Last night I got him to laugh for the first time. Tomorrow he turns 3 months old and starts daycare. Our life as we’ve known it together changes and I’m feeling all of this – the bad and the good – straight to my core. Wishing for more time and longing for a return of myself as something other than a rocking and feeding machine.

Also, feeling so angry that families have to do this all on our own in this country. We’re raising the fucking future and we’re doing it alone. I’m privileged and lucky to have had this but now I’m told I’ve “exhausted my time”. Exhausted is right. I’m tired and fragile and somehow on Wednesday I will divide myself in two – the work me and the mom me. Is there enough me to go around?

I need this. He needs this. We need this. It doesn’t stop the heartbreak, the worry, the longing. How do I stop time today? How do I soak up enough squishy baby-ness to give me the strength to turn around and walk out a door without him in my arms? How do I enjoy a day to myself without running into the door I just left and scooping him up against my heart?

Excuse me if I burst into tears today. Excuse me if I drift away in my mind to a life that would give me more time with my baby and still allow me freedom to be something other than a mother all day. How can I have life both ways?

Each day will get better. We’ll settle into a new routine. A few months from now I can tell another mother approaching the end of her leave that it will be okay, the baby is thriving and learning, and I found a better me for everyone. Right now that life is foggy.

I’ll sit here soaking up the baby-ness and wiping tears today. Fog lifts. It will be okay and it’s all right if it’s not right now.

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Old People at a Rap Show

The old man and I are going to a rap show tonight. And before you say I’m too old for that kind of thing I will let you know that the people performing in the rap show are all older than me (thanks Wikipedia). Barely…some only by days so they are my age. And if they can drink whiskey and perform at said rap show then I can enjoy it…And then go immediately home and fall into bed.

Lately I’ve been feeling old. Like past the point of being cool and might as well settle into my life as I know it and ride it out…old. Un-inspired. Unmotivated. Un-everything. Too afraid to make drastic changes but bored to tears by tiny ones. So I sit. Getting older. Odd pains in my body and forgetting crap all the time.4A530387-10EB-4A18-86EE-3A3260D3534E

But when my Google calendar reminds me and I battle the aches and pains in my joints and I drag myself out into the world for a rap show or a live podcast taping or a writing class or an art show then I see all these amazing people. Amazing women. Amazing men. Who are constantly reinventing themselves and never settling for the status quo and are changing tiny parts of the world all by themselves. And through some brilliant fate they are all my age. Not old at all. Definitely not destined to sit on the sidelines and get older.

So what is it then? Old is not a number. If all these people don’t feel old and dusty then the actual numerals that make up the years they have been earthside isn’t a definition of old. Old is a mentality. It’s a giving up. It’s deciding that I’m done striving and I’m done learning and I’m settled.

And all this un-inspired, un-motivated, un-everything I am feeling? It’s really just unsettled. And my personal philosophy is that when people are unsettled its time for change. Those drastic changes I am afraid of. Not the tiny boring ones (but a tattoo or purple hair might not be out of the question).

I’ll leave it here because I don’t have any more answers. I don’t know what change is ahead of me. I don’t know where I want to take this but its comforting to not feel old and dusty and stuck.

And because it’s the day before Thanksgiving I will send a shout-out to my husband who I am always immensely thankful for and who gets super terrified when I talk like this but always supports the changes I make in my life. Don’t worry, hun, I don’t think I’m quitting my job to drink whiskey and rap. I’m not good at either of those things.

Also, much gratitude to the rappers…artists…podcasters…writers I’ve found who motivate me to reinvent and get un-stuck in my oldness.

 

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The Joy of Yes

We woke up on that Sunday morning and it became clear early on that “No” wasn’t going to work for either of us that day.

It started simply. I said, “Yes”, to her request to wear her My Little Pony pajamas that day.

I said, “Yes”, to the second TV show.

I said, “Yes”, to wearing her princess dress and ALL the accessories to run our errands (over the My Little Pony Pajamas, of course). image1

I never set an intention to say yes all day but we were on a roll. I didn’t realize just how much joy this yes day would bring to both of us and perfect strangers as well.

Maybe I’m now blinded to the magic of seeing children living out their heart’s desires through their clothing choices. I’m regularly treated to princesses and super heroes in my own home. I didn’t expect that most people we passed would at minimum smile or even stop to tell “Her Majesty” how much they adored her crown or dress. But smile they did and stop they did and I could see the pride in Elodie’s confident posture as she strolled through the farmer’s market in full royal attire with matching princess bear in her arms. The musician playing for the shoppers welcomed the “Farmer’s Market Princess” to the dance. Our farmer friend who supplies our family with meat each month told me that she absolutely made his day. And the smiles on the faces of those we passed showed that we were bringing a little joy to their hearts.

There are one-thousand reasons to say no each day, many of them necessary for safety, but given the freedom to say yes, I found myself experiencing a different kind of joy: less anxiety, less fighting, less stress and a lot more fun.

 

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