Being serious for once

On being at home with the kids

My time at home with my babies is over. Four years ago, almost to the day, I was heavily pregnant with twins and left my job with only a vague idea of what was to come. I had notions of heading back to work as soon as my maternity leave was over. I was all “I am woman, hear me roar” about it and there was no way I was going to give up a career I had worked so hard for.

That didn’t happen. A different kind of feminine notion took hold in the minute between the first and second of my sons was born. In an instant, holding them both in my arms for the first time, I grew up, got wise, and became the fierce mama I am.

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This. This is when it happened.

Being a stay at home mom has been an experiment in extremes, punctuated by life events that were completely out of control and all the expected things that kids bring, but double the intensity. The highs are higher and the lows are lower with two, and we have ridden that rollercoaster 1398 days now.

My boys are wild, loud, beasts who will take over the world some day with sheer force of abandon. My Unicorn has imagination beyond compare and an incredible depth of kindness. My Engineer has an aptitude and precociousness for figuring out how the world works and he does it with wit. These are things I already know about them, and I know in my heart who they will be long before they get there. And so I don’t worry for that; I know that they will be themselves, and if they’re lucky, be happy at that.

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The Engineer and The Unicorn

And tonight, tonight it hit me with the force of a speeding railway, after they were snuggled into bed, after all the dishes were done, and the wine drunk, the relaxing over. Tonight, as I went to check on them before I turned to bed myself, I realized that tomorrow we will wake up and be a different kind of family. I will be a different kind of mom.

I know that the fact that I had a choice to stay home and now go back to work was a great luxury, so I won’t dwell on it. But I will grieve a little for this shift in my universe; this separation that I never wanted. I will still do all the mom things that moms do everywhere every day. I will still be there in the morning and at night and every minute that I am able. They will still need so much from me.

And oh my god, I am grateful, so profoundly grateful that I had nearly four years to spend with my little folk and grateful that I found it in me to do it, because I was so afraid that I didn’t. I am grateful for the things that they have given me; the patience, the knowledge that time passes whether it’s good or bad, and how to find joy in those small moments even when the day has been hard.

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Like this. This was hard. OMG I HAVE CLEANED UP SO MUCH SHIT IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS.

So tomorrow I send them off into this world a little bit in a way I am not prepared for yet. I will have to approach it the same way I approached becoming a mom; vague notions and blind faith that it will all work out alright. And it will, because I am armed now with the knowledge that as long as those two little goofballs are in this world with me, everything is ok.

13 Years in 6 Songs, Plus one for the future

I first started dating Mr. Giraffe in January 2000, after he chased me down in the food court that our office buildings shared after being egged on by his friends. True story. Thirteen years later we are married with twin boys and a wayward dog, and we owe it all to the eerie yellow glow of the subway sign.

A major theme in our relationship has been music. Apart from chess and spreadsheets, it’s what drives Mr. Giraffe. He plays music, better than he would admit to. In high school he resembled Neil Young in both hair and guitar. A thousand times I heard the songs he taught himself guitar to, never lessening in my admiration for his talent. It still makes me swoon a little, even though he doesn’t know that.

He saved me with the lyric: “I am lonely, but you can free me all in the way that you smile” a million times over.

At first it was Miles Davis that we had in common. I listened to the album in my grandparents’ basement a thousand times when I was in high school. We would go on to jazz festivals in Montreal and Monterey. We’d go to smoky clubs, we’d see Maceo Parker in the sweltering summer, still in our fancy clothes and faces still creased from sleeping in the car the night before after a wedding in the country.

We hit the record store downtown and found Hang Up your Hangups. Mr. Giraffe recorded it on our answering machine. It was on there for so long that I called the CBC and begged them to broadcast it for a final farewell. It stayed on until we moved though. Later, we would meet Herbie Hancock at the Monterey Jazz Festival just before we watched him rock a keytar, and I had nothing to say anything other than “Sir, you were on our answering machine for 4 years”. Security whisked him away.

We raced around music festivals; the Calgary Folk Music Festival being the highlight of our year. We spent my 30th birthday in the dust and heat of Bonnaroo. Mr. Giraffe discovered Old Crow Medicine Show and learned to play that song, and performed it with friends that year.

And somewhere in the middle of all of that, we got married. With a party band at our wedding, where all of our friends and family, some lost or forgotten now, danced all night long and we were still singing on the bus to our hotel.

We danced to Sweet Virginia the morning that Mr. Giraffe proposed to me, in the kitchen of our old house. We danced to it on our wedding day. We went to California and Austin for our honeymoon. “Thank you, for your wine, California. Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit

After the honeymoon we went to Iron and Wine. I nearly fainted at the concert. I would find out days later that I was pregnant, months later with twins. “Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body, So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten, Sons are like birds flying upwards over the mountain.

And then our lives as we knew them ended.  We’ve been to our Folk Festival, we’ve been moved to tears by Gillian Welch. We’ve been to Monterey. But kids have taken all of my focus and attention. I let myself get too far in one direction, away from you. My valentine to you, Mr. Giraffe, is the promise to try to recapture some of that energy. The stuff we’ve lost in the flood, the drudgery of having kids, and general weariness of age. Because really, that’s where we’ve felt the best and been our best; when the music is good.

Weekly photo challenge: Illumination

I confess, I am not a very diligent WordPresser when it comes to things like the Daily Post. In fact, I think this is the first time I have actually read it, but right now it fits because the days are getting longer and I feel lighter.

I also confess that I just got back from a Disney Cruise and Disney World. I think you all know me well enough to know that I am a bit too jaded for these kinds of things, but I was drawn in by promises of legendary service and the prospect of sun in the middle of a bleak winter. And it paid off in that way; I had to do very little thinking. I got vitamin D from all the sun. I got to sit and watch the ocean go by and ponder the acidification from all the carbon dioxide we were emitting. Ok, so anxiety doesn’t make trips relaxing.

But my sons; to them this trip was all light. Disney did its magic and filled their heads with stories and characters and fantastical sights.

This is my little unicorn, rocking out in a family night club on the ship in his Buzz Lightyear pyjamas. The music was blaring and he had the dance floor mostly to himself. To him all the lights were light sabers and the pounding music a soundtrack to his own personal Star Wars movie.

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I don’t have a picture of my other son watching fireworks for the first time. We were finishing dinner when the fireworks started and the waiter let us sneak out the back door so we could watch the show. My little unicorn sat up on Daddy’s shoulders, while I held the engineer on my lap. His face filled with wonder watching the sky explode to music. That look, watching his face light up filled a need I didn’t even realize that I had. It undid a little bit of weariness in me. I don’t need a photo of that; I’ll carry that light around with me for some time to come.

All existential again

Alternately titled: GAWD ROLLERGIRAFFE, JUST GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER ALREADY.

My brain is such an asshole sometimes. I went to the cultural capital of the entire universe (New York City), narrowly escaped the storm of a lifetime, a major election happened, we moved our bees, and I had a traveling salesman come to my door selling art in a goddamned snowstorm. But may brain is all “we got nothing.” “No blogs up here, my friend.” Brain: you are a dick.

I made a muppet y’all. And it looked like it was being asphyxiated in my hotel room for 5 days, and my brain STILL DIDN’T WANT TO BLOG ABOUT IT.

They look like they’re dying. That is bloody comedy!

Why?

Good question. I don’t know really. When I posted about my rut a while ago, and all went fucksticks crazy on my blog for a few weeks, it felt like I was on a roll. But that’s not necessarily reality for someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and is the mayor of peanut butter. The reality is that I spend my days stealing the kids’ Halloween candy and being sad, or at least vaguely dissatisfied. I have some reasons for this, but not nearly enough to justify the depth of it.

Cathy at Large Self posted this quote a few weeks ago that struck a nerve with me.

“If we can get to the place where we show up as our genuine selves and let each other see who we really are, the awe-inspiring ripple effect will change the world.”

—  Terrie M. Williams

This has been rolling around in my head for weeks. It was just one of those timely quotes that has embedded itself in my head and I can’t let it go. I haven’t really been my genuine self. Not that I haven’t been genuine with you all, just that I haven’t been the person that I really want to be. Or taken the time to really figure that out. And all that I really want out of life is to rock the shit out of it. I want to find a way to make those ripples, I just don’t really know how right now.

So here is my genuine self, right now:

I feel untethered. I am worried about everything. I am not feeling good about myself and where I am headed right now. I feel lonely; so unbearably, crushingly lonely (you are not the only one Creative Liar). I also feel like I am not enough for myself or for anyone around me. I know part of this is the disease of depression, but part of it is the circumstance of having let myself go.

Are you coming with me?

But these are also things that I am confident can be fixed. In a strange way, I feel like I am moving toward some unidentified future that will fulfill me. Or maybe it’s just delusion blind hope. Hell, maybe I am just drunk (thank you, Joyce Winery, your San Benito Pedregal something something is totally whateversszzzzsfzsdsdddfffffffffffffzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

So in the spirit of me wanting to look forward and move toward something better, look for posts in the weeks ahead about people and things that inspire me. The world is good out there, I just need to find my way into it again.

And because I don’t like being serious: FUCKBALLS.

Hurricane Sandy

I was in New York City for the first time last week. I met some terrific bloggers, including Lame Adventures and Love and Lunchmeat. I narrowly missed meeting a few others, including El Guapo and Brain Tomahawk because Greenwich Village broke my navigational skills. Mostly though, I cherished discovering a new city and everything that I was looking forward to seeing was infinitely better than I expected it to be. All week we had the impending hurricane on our minds though, and we were grateful to be on one of the last flights out before things got canceled. People were preparing but I don’t think anyone was prepared for what came.

I’ll post more about my trip later, but in the meantime go donate to the Red Cross if you’re able, or check out the Huffington Post site for other ways to help.

I hope all of our blogging friends are safe and sound and sending so much love your way.

On being Freshly Pressed

Being Freshly Pressed was pretty exciting, I admit. It never occurred to me when I started this blog that anyone would actually read it, and for a long time it was just me recounting my various disasters to myself. I was cool with that. But then I started looking around WordPress and found that there were really amazing bloggers out there, and my network expanded with the help of a certain Le Clown you may have heard of.  That dude is everywhere.

And when I was Freshly Pressed, I was pressed with friends, including the Ringmistress, and that was amazing.

The Ringmistress, The Rollergiraffe and Le Clown, all on one page.

I am glad that this little corner of the blogosphere that Le Clown created is getting recognition, because there are some really wonderful writers, the atmosphere is festive, and everyone is terribly kind and supportive. My blog is starting to feel like a home where all my friends drop in, and it has added a whole new dimension to writing for me.

I am glad that being Freshly Pressed allowed me to widen my net a little bit and meet some new faces. I gained a few new followers yesterday and I am truly happy for that. But even better is to be able to peruse through all of your blogs (once my hands have uncramped from checking my stats every 30 seconds and my voice has recovered from all the gleeful squealing) and find more people to hang out with. So if you visited, thank you. I hope you stay and I hope we chat about good things.

As for my rut? Well, I struggled with putting it out there into the world, but now I am so glad I did. Knowing people have been there before and made it out is inspirational, and it feels better to unburden myself of it. Maybe this is the universe providing the nudge I need to get out.

And now because I can’t maintain serious sentiment for a long time and I am awkward at endings, here is a picture of a really weird sea creature.

You should have kids. Or don’t, or whatever, it’s really up to you.

A friend earnestly asked for my thoughts on pregnancy and childbirth recently, and I was drunk enough from crappy draft beer and was coming off a cruddy week so I was terribly cynical. I believe that I told her that it was like a grenade went off in your vag, and went on to discuss the various body fluids and such at length until she presumably left to go get her tubes tied.

I’ll let you form your own opinion about what kind of a-hole that makes me, but I am here to rectify that. Because you see it’s all fine to be cynical and self-deprecating when I am drunk and trying to be humorous, but I actually find my kids delightful. I enjoyed pregnancy and those early days even though I was crippled by anxiety and depression. I am proud of my boys and proud of myself for making it through the hard bits, and I would never want anyone to think otherwise.

So, my dear friend, this is what I would say to you if I was being honest:

There is no real apt comparison, but pregnancy and childbirth is a bit akin to the wedding before the marriage. Everything is about to change again. Use this time to find your voice, rely on your body, start discovering how you want to raise your child, building your network of trusted sources, and learn what your own limitations are. Mourn or celebrate the changes in your body. Learn to cut out the chatter of parents, relatives, friends, experts, and google.  Everyone has an opinion, and the only one that matters is yours (and maybe the opinion of a caring and competent midwife or obstetrician). While ideally you have an easy pregnancy and a joyous birth that leaves you with a euphoric start to parenthood, it may not happen as you planned it. That’s ok, mourn that too.

And once you get over that hurdle, the real work begins. Your body will be a mess for a while as it knits back together, but you’ll hardly notice because you are in the kind of sleep deprivation state normally reserved for torture tactics and vision quests. You will both love the little being (or beings!) and be drained by it’s endless need. You will feel like you are doing everything wrong during the bad phases and everything right during the good phases, but recognize that it is all a phase. Everything is a phase. Enjoy the good ones, endure the bad ones and know how much wine you can safely drink before breastfeeding if that’s how you roll.

You have to deal with the various plagues and teething and other people’s terrible kids. Your kids will like things that make you feel stabby and they will flush all your preconceived notions about parenting down the drain (literally, if they’re written on something. Everything goes in the toilet). Your efforts will be spoiled by well meaning grandparents and you’ll have to navigate the wilderness of choices over babywearing, breastfeeding, toys, tv, feeding, sleep training, daycare, preschool; the list is virtually endless. And the worst part is that you will be in charge; you will hate making decisions. But, you will also have instinct on your side and develop a keen eye for things that will work for your family.

And they get bigger and become little kids at a furious pace. Kids are sticky and cuddly and surprisingly strong and louder than you think at 3 am. But they are delightful. Truly. All the magic that you lose the first time you have to pay for car registration or realize that you’re on the hook when the faucet breaks comes rushing back to you when you find yourself blowing bubbles in the middle of a Tuesday. Sure, it’s bound to end in failure and tears, but very few things are as freeing as staying in that moment. They come to you when they’re happy and when they’re sad and both of those are gratifying. There is nothing more powerful than when they snuggle into you or grab your face for a big messy kiss.

My boys saved me, healed me, and helped me become a more fully realized woman in ways that I never expected. They humble me and make me eat my words often and I am frustrated every single day.  But they also make me slow down and appreciate things I had forgotten about. I feel things with more depth because I bear the weight of their emotion too. They still have all the best qualities without the cynicism that comes with age; curiosity, humor, generosity and kindness. It’s impossible not to let that rub off on you a little. And they are watching, so you become a little more mindful of your actions and hopefully a little bit of a better person.

But this is my experience and yours might be different. You are already amazing, and your kids may not have the same effect on your life as on mine. Maybe you’re up for it, and maybe you’re not. Maybe you are really looking forward to getting tapped on the forehead at 3 am or taking the little beast everywhere under the sun. Or maybe you dread the thought of touching all of someone else’s body fluids and maybe a grenade vag is enough to put you off forever. Maybe you like being untethered. That’s all cool by me. Just don’t fail to do it out of fear or because parents complain all the time because those are just the surface bits. It’s harder to talk about how crazy in love you are with your kids than playing along with the narrative that parenting is terribly hard. If you decide you want kids, don’t do it expecting happiness or exhaustion or perfection or anything at all. Do it expecting your life to be ripped wide open and to keep expanding.

And you are totally going to rock this.