Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Anniversary Post: You must do the thing you think you cannot do


Today marks the fourth year of this blog. Four years. The first time I started writing, Little Miss wasn’t even one and she could barely toddle, moving from furniture to furniture, letting go long enough only to quickly grasp the next thing that would help steady her short, uncertain legs. 

And now she’s turning five in two weeks, swinging from one end of the monkey bars to the other without help, without trepidation. 

In these four years, we’ve also moved once, had another baby girl, quit our nine-to-five jobs so My Guy could be his own boss and I could stay home with the girls a little more, traveled as much as our finances would allow us, moved on to a bigger vehicle and added another, had to put our 12-year-old dog down, and almost lost our family.

Oh and I’ve also become a runner. Imagine that. Yes, a lot has happened. And didn’t happen, like losing my family. Thankfully, we worked it out, and now, we’re in a really good place. Really good.

But with each new event we experience, major or minor, good or bad, we learn so much, and to celebrate my fourth year here, I’d like to talk about the FOUR important things that I have learned and continue to work on every day:

1. Eleanor Roosevelt: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This is what drives My Guy, and I admire him immensely for that. It can get unnerving sometimes when the dust never seems to settle, that we can’t just sit back and enjoy the moment, because he’s constantly working towards a goal, challenging himself and us. However, I also learned that it’s not a bad thing. His passion fuels my own, and when we are working towards the same goals together, it makes the rough days worth it and the good days “really fucking amazing,” in his words. 2. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all parenting. Just because the girls share the same quirks (like insisting on a tissue on their pillow every night at bedtime when they turned two) doesn’t mean they are anything alike. In fact, what I’ve learned about parenting from Little Miss doesn’t always apply to Pickle, who is easier in some ways, and harder in others.

Right now, we are at a loss as to how to keep Pickle, at 29 months, in her big girl bed as she walks around her room, collecting an army of toys to keep her entertained at bedtime, whereas Little Miss, who asked to be in a big girl bed at 19 months, never once left the bed. She would twirl her hair for as long as it took to fall asleep, and when she woke in the morning, she’d patiently wait and sing to herself in bed until one of us entered her bedroom. Not once did her feet touch the ground even when there was nothing preventing her from it.

Not so much with Pickle, who decided that bedtime is a sport. And because we were spoiled with Little Miss Sleeps Like An Angel, we are losing the bedtime battle with her sister.
3. We have to talk. We are all talkers in this house. Both girls started speaking in full sentences early, My Guy talks for a living, and I don’t like to, but I can and sometimes, I do. Which is why it’s surprising that the biggest breakdown that happened between My Guy and I had to do with our lack of communication -- our inability to voice exactly what it was that troubled us about one another. But once we recognized that and started working on it, there’s no going back. We now talk to connect. Talk to articulate our emotions. Talk about our goals. Talk to laugh. Talk to feel good.

The thing is, we don’t always have the luxury of time to sit on the couch to speak at length about our day, and we’re okay with that too. Sometimes a night of back-to-back episodes of “The Walking Dead” with the occasional “holy shit, I can’t believe that just happened” thrown in between is the best way to connect after a long day. It’s knowing that the other is always open and available when we feel the need to talk is enough.
4. True friendships aren’t complicated. I have met some incredible people this past four years. Many of them are bloggers I met virtually but our friendships are no less real. Those of you who have followed my blog know how much these virtual friendships have helped me through a really hard time when I thought I was losing my family. Then there’s my best friend in real life whom I hardly see because we’re separated by many, many miles yet when we’re together, it’s like no time had passed, and no matter what happens, she never judges, and she’s always on my side. And that is true of a handful of friends in my life as well, and I'm ever so grateful for them.

But not everyone is like that. I’ve learned that too. There are people who are friends only in name as they can never be happy for me when I am happy, who will always begrudge me any good fortune that comes my way, and who always feel the need to be in competition. I've learned that that is more a reflection of them than it is of me. These are the people I have learned to quickly weed out from my life because really, who needs all that drama? No matter how old you get, high school always seems to want to catch up to you. I just refuse to let it. I’ve learned to stop being hard on myself and wondering what I did, accepting that friendship, too, isn’t a one-size-fits-all.

Just like My Guy, I, too, must do the things I think I cannot do. Like letting go of the things that are out of my control. Like accepting that I will never be that ever-patient, never-yelling, never-scolding mom. Like being okay with others’ perception of me, right or wrong, and not trying to convince them otherwise.

So there you have it. Nothing earth-shattering. Just simple rules to live by for the next four years. If I’m still blogging then, I may have more to add to this, but for now, these are the things that are keeping it real for me.
Thank you for being here, reading these words. I’ve said this before in my first anniversary post, and I will say it again now: thank you for your support in my journey, whether you’ve been with me all four years, just this year, this month, or this day -- I will always be grateful and honored that you are with me
here, where I have landed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baking with children and other domestic delights

Little Miss woke on Sunday and cheerily declared, "It's pajama day!" like it's news. It's not. She tries that every time we stay home from school. Sometimes it works. The sun would be shining, the sky would be a glorious blue, and she'd be all gung-ho with her stay-home campaign.

"But it's beautiful outside, love."
"No! I want to stay inside!"
"We can go biking?"
"Mommy, biking is just not my thing..."

What kid says that?

I'm a fan of staying home too, but sometimes we just need to get out of the house. Errands don't run themselves, people, and when the girls run out of space or activities, they begin to torment each other for sport. I don't know about you, but that's not my favorite way to spend the day.

Yesterday, however, Little Miss Homebody won.

It might have something to do with the fact that we were out all day on Saturday with friends at separate events (three!), and I was all social-life'd out.  After getting my six-mile run out of the way earlier in the morning, my family and I got into the serious business of domesticating.

It's ironic that on Pajama Day, we did anything but lounge around in our PJ's.

First, the girls and I made a delectable challah bread pudding with chocolate and raisins. I thought the chocolate ganache might be too much, so I made a simple caramel sauce from this easy recipe instead.


Clothing optional


It's the perfect thing to make with kids because it appeals to their natural talent to mess and destroy, skillfully tearing up the challah bread like they were born to do this, and sprinkling raisins and chocolate chips  -- what little that didn't get eaten along the way, anyway -- all over the pan the way they would with rice on a newly mopped floor.

I warmed the milk, butter, and sugar on the stove in advance so all they did after Operation Destroy was to beat the eggs with me and then watched me mix and pour the custard into the bread-filled pan. Easy peasy.


"two chocolate chips for me, one for the pan..."

As long as you don't mind that most of the ingredients (about a 2:1 ratio) are going to end up in their mouths, and that they're not going to abide by any kitchen dress code (for my girls, clothing is always optional), then this recipe is perfect for a Fall/Winter day, when you're stuck (voluntarily or involuntarily) in the house.


so proud of their mess-terpiece

In the end, all the stress of kids who only half listen and mostly devour your ingredients pay off as we're rewarded with some warm and comforting bread pudding drizzled with caramel. The chaos is forgotten with the first bite, and the rest is just gooey, sticky, melt-in-your-mouth bonus.






* * *


While we were busy in the kitchen, My Guy was no slouch either. He surprised the girls by reorganizing their books and toys -- collecting many for donation -- and converting what used to be my little office space into a reading, crafting, and playing nook for the girls. I used to have a desktop on the desk, but now that I'm mobile with my laptop, I rarely found a use for that corner, other than to collect paperwork that never gets filed and, of course, dust.


Children's Nook
(please ignore the beer bottles; this is also next to the wet bar. It's a combined aesthetic. Ahem.)


I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the "before", because, unless you've been to my place, you wouldn't know what a difference this "after" makes to this little corner of our family area in the lower level. I love that the kids can now easily spot and reach their books and toys that once were hidden in the girls' bedroom closet, which became an out-of-sight-out-of-mind issue.

We had to remind them to play with their toys, we had to remind them to pick a different book for the evening, but now that everything is out in the open and in the path between their bedroom and everywhere else in the house, we're hoping that they would just jump right in.

It actually worked -- too well, in fact -- because Little Miss got distracted on her way upstairs this morning, so instead of coming up to get ready for school, she was playing downstairs and had to be extricated from her game!

We can never win.


* * *





The rest of the day went by quietly as we divided and conquered the rest of our domestic chores. I picked up around the house while Little Miss handmade Halloween cards for her grandparents and auntie. We both listened to the classical station on Pandora, each giving the other space to work, to think, looking up to occasionally check in or ask for help.

We also completed our Fall banner this year and hung it above the fireplace. It's the same as the first banner we made from this time last year, except it's not. This time, we used the leaves we picked from our trip to the forest preserve last weekend, and while Little Miss marveled at her (our) creation, I sighed at the swift passing of time. I can't believe it's been a year already.


Yes, that's a Star Trek Phaser on the right. What?

While I reveled in the quiet afternoon activities with my big girl, Pickle played sidekick to My Guy, who was on a quest for more shelves and storage units for his office that also doubles as a guest bedroom. It's the one space in the house that's still in limbo, and he adds new elements to the room each week, like a sleeper couch, a roman shade, a Star Trek collectible, or, like this week, a rather cool red, metal cabinet to make it work for both his needs and that of our future guests.

There's a lot of reorganization going on in this house lately. Maybe it's the cooler weather that prompts us to nest. Or maybe we're going for loving, rather than just living, when it comes being in our home. Maybe it's also time for us to be rid of certain things from our past that come with our previous lives' attachments so we may fully appreciate living in the present.

Whatever it is, by the time we're done with all this purging, reorganizing, and repurposing of items and spaces, we're going to be able to sleep about 10 people quite comfortably in our three-bedroom apartment!

Now we just need to find the six people who're crazy enough to want to do that with us some time.

A Chicago vacation anyone?



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surrounded


It seems like the only time I write these days is when something big happens - vacation! broken tailbone! confessing to my Facebook problem! oh my! Otherwise, things are pretty quiet here around these parts. It’s like as though the Landed family life ceases to exist outside of these momentous occasions.
But the opposite is true. Ever since I made myself admit to my social media issues, I’ve been pushing myself to live more fully, to be more present with my family, and as a result, the living has taken over the writing of it. I continue to blog (although not as often as I’d like) because my wish is for my girls to have glimpses of their two-, four-, six-, eight-year-old selves when they’re older, but truthfully, it’s been a struggle lately. I have full-time work on my part-time schedule, which is a good thing, but at the same time, I’m mostly in catch-up or guilt mode because when I’m not completing deadlines, I’m feeling guilty about them, and when I’m working the two days a week from home while the girls are at preschool and some nights when they’re in bed, I see the myriad things around the house that I should be doing instead. My balance is a little off here, and I would like to find that again. But the good news is that my tailbone is healing nicely. I started running again after taking three weeks off. I’m not happy with what that injury has done to my own fitness, knowing that there was no way that I could be in shape for my half-marathon on October 19, so I had to let that go and began preparing for the 15K race that’s coming up on November 3 instead. Before this, a five-mile run was my short distance run for the week. Now, I can barely make it to a 10K (6.2 miles) without losing a lung and many out-of-breath expletives along the way. But I know I have to be patient, remember to be grateful that I’m running at all, and just keep going. Last week, I was rewarded for my perseverance with my first trail run. We went as a family to experience Fall in all its colorful glory in a forest preserve in the outskirts of the city. While My Guy hiked over three miles with happy little girls who didn’t utter a single complaint, I ran five in the woods.




That morning, I was out of breath not because of the running, but because of the scenery that knocked the wind out of me. For an urban family, we’re not completely immersed in nature very often, but when we had the chance to hike and run along the north branch of the Chicago river, pick vibrant, gorgeous red-orange-gold leaves for our Fall project, we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.


I didn’t run very fast that day, choosing a more meditative experience as I listened only to the sounds of my breath and nature while my pounding feet were muffled by the leaves on the ground. I now know why some people are fanatical about trail running. If this was more accessible to me, I would be doing it all the time too.
But the thing is, running by my house is not all bad either. On a crisp, Fall day, I can just as easily find my serenity here as well.




In other news, Little Miss will be turning five in less than a month, and already the promise of “they get better at five” seems to be on the horizon. She was a late-bloomer because she wasn’t difficult at two. We were secretly relieved and proud that we didn’t have to deal with the Terrible Two’s with her, except she more than made up for it at three, and then at four. Her constant clamoring for attention is occasionally sidelined by her need for her own space, whether in a corner play-acting by herself or reading a book. And when she’s asked to do something, she fights us a little less and complies with a sweet “okay, mommy” or “okay, daddy”, which, before this, have rarely escaped from her lips. At night, I read her her first big chapter book, "The Tale of Despereaux", by Kate DiCamillo, a gift from her favorite aunt and my best friend, and she’s rapt. “Three more chapters tonight mommy?” she’d ask each evening, and we’d snuggle under the covers as I read them aloud and explain concepts like revenge, abuse, and ambition to someone who had previously no notion of them. We are now at page 266. Not quite five, but Little Miss can already read this book quietly to herself, but I realized, after her first three chapters on her own, reading and comprehending are not the same thing. I had read the book myself earlier and remembered the concepts that were difficult for a preschooler to grasp, and that’s how this book became our special time together while her daddy read board books to our two-year-old before bedtime each evening . I have to say, I look forward to it myself because when I see her putting the story together in her head and remembering details I’d read two weeks ago, I’m in awe. Kids are such sponges aren’t they? In other, other news, Little Miss started whistling two weeks ago, and it’s always startling to hear that around the house and realizing that’s it’s coming from my four-year-old. I whistle, My Guy whistles, and when growing up, my dad did it all the time. I know it’s just whistling, but Little Miss, who went to school not knowing how one day and came home sucking in her breath to whistle (which was how I started myself), is especially proud of it, so I thought I’d mention it here, too. Pickle is both impressed, “When me a big girl, me want to whistle,” and sad, “Daddy can whistle, mommy can whistle, Missy can whistle, but me can’t do it…Me sad, me can’t do it.” Yes, that’s my emotionally intelligent toddler. She tells me when she’s sad, mad, excited, happy, and frustrated. These are all words that she uses, and she even uses them correctly. I love how she is so articulate with her feelings, and at the same time, I continue to relish her toddlerese, “me don’t want to go to sleep; me not tired!” secretly hoping that it will take her a looooong time before she eventually corrects herself and removes the last vestiges of her babyhood.
Here, we're at mommy and baby brunch. She can't whistle yet, but she can wink!
Already she’s losing her lisp, and both My Guy and I try to console one another as we watch her baby self slowly diminish as the little person - or imp, as we like to call her - appear. The imp isn’t just a cute little nickname though. It’s really what she is, because unlike her sister, she has no problems owning her Terrible Two’s.
As much as we love how well she talks, there’s certainly a major drawback as she now uses words to argue her point or to insist on getting her way. Two going on Tween - we have, in our hands, an overachiever. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to hear her protest, “No, no, me!” with every little thing we try to do for her. Her fierce need for independence, which no doubt stems from trying to quickly catch up to an older sibling, detests our help, so she fights us each time we attempt to brush her teeth, zip her coat, put on her socks, buckle her carseat - she wants to do everything herself. “No, no, me do it!” And more often than not, she does, which explains how she’s been using a spoon to scoop out avocado to eat by herself since she was about 20 months old, putting on her own shirt, pants, shoes and socks before she turned two, and eschewing the training potty for the regular toilet without our aid. Another favorite retort of hers is "But me…", as in "Please don't disturb the sleeping cat," - "But me not disturbing him, me only kissing him. And he likes it. Macky looooves me…" But her favorite response by far is “Me just…” as in "Hey, Pickle, don’t jump on the couch," - “Me just kneeling down and bouncing; me not jumping”. These days our requests and reproaches are always met with a "but" or “me just” reply to push and find the limits of her boundaries. Like, “Don’t run around the house while you’re eating” is met with “Me just skipping, mommy…” as if that’s so much better. And man, does it get exhausting. Even Little Miss gets tired of it and yells back when her little sister doesn’t comply, “NO “ME JUST”!!! Stop saying “me just”! Just. Don’t. Do. it!” I hear you on your frustration, Little Miss. Welcome to my world. You do it too, only you’re grammatically right, “I just…” but it’s no less difficult for us.



Partners in crime, apple picking/eating

Ah, sisters. With language comes the bickering, of course. I knew this was my fate, having to constantly hear the arguing, yelling, whining, crying of two equally headstrong, equally articulate kids with screeching as their super power. I think I’ve lost 30% of my hearing since Pickle was born. On the flip side however, there is also love. Last Friday, all four of us slept on the same bed for the first time. Not because we  had  to, because they sleep on their respective big-girl beds just fine, but because it seemed like a fun Friday night thing to do. After watching a late-evening movie in our bed with them, they were supposed to sleep first on this Family Slumber Party Night except there was more party and less slumber with giggling, chatty girls who took a good hour to succumb to sleep. When we were ready to turn in ourselves, I crawled in between them, and My Guy slept on the other side of Little Miss. By the first hour, I was already pinned inside the covers by both girls who kicked off theirs and slept on top of the comforter, rather than below it. It was both uncomfortable and lovely, as I’ve longed for this very occasion for awhile now but could never really do it when we had our queen-sized bed as I’m a light sleeper who suffers from RLS (restless leg syndrome) that’s exacerbated by tight sleeping quarters, and it would keep me up for hours. That night, despite our new king-sized bed, which we had invested in specifically for occasions like these, I was afforded little room, and I was awakened each time some kid coughed or made their very dramatic tossing or turning in bed, but somehow, it didn’t matter. In the middle of the night I witnessed the little one sit up, look at both sides of her and call out for her sister when she didn’t see Little Miss by her side, and Little Miss, still heavy with sleep merely responded, “I’m right here, Pickle; I’m on the other side of mommy.” And just like that, Pickle fell back to sleep on her spot, comforted, knowing her sister was there too. When she woke at seven the next morning, the first thing she did was to gently, sweetly plant a kiss on my face. Then she crawled across the bed to My Guy and did the same for him, saying only “good morning, daddy…”
We could get used to waking up like this every day. Except we won’t. We are firm believers of the notion that grownups need their space to do grownup things, and kids also need their space to do kid things, each essential for so many reasons, so while this was wonderful, it will remain only as a special family night for us, which is still nice as it’s something we can all look forward to. People with disparate needs, growing and learning different things, all piled up in one bed - gangly arms and legs in faces, messy, warm bodies touching and shaping other warm, sometimes sweaty bodies. And me in the midst of it all, completely aware of each movement, each sleep-soaked muttering that wakes me from my own slumber, realizing in the quiet darkness of the night that I’m fully present, for the first time in a long time, for all the love that surrounds me.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An important realization, Part 2: I have a problem

Mobile phone
I think it’s time I admit this to myself. I have a problem. I’m not sure when it was exactly that I came to this realization, but at one point, it seemed that everything I read was trying to tell me something.
 

It started with the author, Gretchen Rubin’s question on her Facebook page, asking if Facebook makes us happy. I paused to respond, except I didn’t have a straight yes or no answer, and it was a little unnerving.
 

Then I read Big Little Wolf’s article on phone stacking, and it made me realize just how much my own head was buried in my phone sometimes. And I didn’t like it. Especially since it irks me to see that happening with “kids these days”, who don’t look at their parents while responding, if at all, because they’re hyper attached to their phones, and even parents who spend more time at playgrounds on their phones than with their children.
 

Guilty.
 

Well, maybe not more time, but enough to give me another pause. Do I look like that? Am I that parent who’s there but quite not there at the same time?

Finally, not long after, this post found its way to me through, ironically, my Facebook feed: Momastery’s 6 Reasons Social Media is Dangerous, which hit me like a 15-metric-ton meteoroid.

The image she chose, with the words “Be Still” tattooed on the wrist, spoke to me. Calling herself an Input Junkie, where she was restless and fidgety when she wasn’t checking one social media site or another on her phone, spoke to me. And Validation Junkie? Oh boy, that hit home too. (Yay, 20 Likes!)

Reading about her being pulled out of the present moment and thus robbing herself of the here and now with her family
screamed at me. And the whole “I’m not good enough” thing? Well, that did it. Nail. Coffin. Done.
 

I decided to divorce Facebook. At least on my phone.
 

It’s not a clean breakup, because, like her, I do appreciate its basic functions. I like learning about my friend’s new baby in Australia, seeing pictures of my 80-year-old paati (grandma) at her surprise birthday banquet in Malaysia, finding interesting and useful sites, articles, and businesses through my social network, and being in the loop when it comes to news around the world. Yes, Facebook was where I learned Osama bin Laden was killed.  

As with most people, I love the convenience of this one tool that made keeping in touch, sharing my babies’ milestones with family and friends, and being informed so easy. It’s a great tool! To answer Gretchen’s question, yes, it made me happy. But that’s just one side of the story.
 

Here’s the other side: After I left my nine-to-five job, I decided to give social media marketing a shot, and to do that, I made myself more active on Facebook. I created a Facebook page for this blog, I updated my status and uploaded photos fairly regularly, and I even started checking in at places because I enjoyed seeing the places my friends visited. From them, I learned where I could take my kids, new places to eat, and future date nights to plan.


Recommendations! Conversations! Friendships! Social networking at its best.
 

I even helped a local business with their social media, and they were fairly successful with my input. Even better. I was going somewhere…

Until I wasn’t anymore. Navigating between my own network, my blog’s presence, and this additional business all became too much too fast. It wasn’t just Facebook. There were Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, and then Foodspotting, RunKeeper - it seemed like every hobby had its own social networking tool. And I was in all of it!

This girl. Yes, this girl who craves the quiet and serenity like a lizard the sun. The same one who would rather read a book than attend a party because being around people takes too much out of me. It’s not the same, one might argue.

But when I couldn’t fully complete my own thought because my head was nagging at me to turn on my phone so I could scroll through a mind-numbing amount of images, recommendations, triumphs, frustrations, ideas, videos, complaints, observations, then yes, it’s the same, because it’s just as intrusive, uncomfortable, and exhausting.

I was constantly flooded with information - like drinking from a firehose, as My Guy would say - but when I stepped away from it, my hands didn’t know what to do with themselves. Nor my head, apparently, because I forgot how to just sit and think.

Like Glennon at Momastery, I was “twitchy and fidgety” when my hand wasn’t holding a phone, absorbing some information - no matter how inane or mundane. The inability to just sit and be still without wondering “what’s going on out there in the world” when really that’s just code for “hmm… what are the people of Facebook up to?” - WHAT THE HELL WAS UP WITH THAT?

Then I started rationalizing, which made it worse, because that just promoted the situation from problematic to pathetic.

I started telling myself that working from home, with no conversations with anyone but myself or my two cats can be a little too quiet, too isolating sometimes (which can be true). With Facebook, I could “talk” to people, and on days that I was home with my toddler, I could feel like I was having an adult conversation, rather than ones that mostly centered around offering myriad snack choices (yogurt and granola? applesauce and string cheese?), discussing bowel movements (did you poop? or just pee pee?), and negotiating everything (how about we go outside after three more bites of breakfast? okay, two. fine!).

These “conversations” made me feel like I was a part of something bigger than what I was doing by myself, alone, or with a toddler who didn’t care that I cared about other things outside of her. And that was enough for me to continue my social networking binge.

But here’s the funny thing about
enough. That’s one thing I could never find on Facebook. There’s always someone doing something I’d rather be doing. Seeing more. Having more. Knowing more. That it makes me feel like what I’m doing, where I am, who I am - it’s never enough. Someone will always be wiser, stronger, smarter, funnier, prettier, and I too was getting caught up with it sometimes.

It can be so frickin’ high school, and the fact that I allowed myself to be swept up in its ridiculous, tangled mess of a web just absolutely kills me. I’m 38 years old. Shouldn’t I be above this crap? Instead, I’m one bad hair away from living the 80’s all over again with all the junior high drama.

It pains me to admit all this, especially since I will be announcing this post once it’s published via Facebook. The irony is not lost on me. But I also need to get all this out there so I will no longer be tethered to my phone, thumbing through several sites in search of what? Validation? Company?

Putting this out there makes me feel accountable. Like if I say I’m going to quit this bad habit of mine, I just will have to follow through. Because I said I would to all of you. Like sharing my running activities over Facebook made me more likely to stick with it - the encouragement, the discussions, every little bit helped as I tried to get into it over the past year. Except now I no longer need them to continue running. It’s already in my blood.

And I certainly don’t need Facebook to validate what I should already know. That I am happy. That I love being a mother. That I enjoy my work. That I love my life. That I don’t have to conform to ideals. That my little life here, with my little people, is, in fact, enough. That I am, indeed,
enough.

It has been over a week since I deleted Facebook from my phone. Since then, the phone no longer looks like an extraneous growth on my body, which is funny because just two days ago, My Guy surprised me with an iPhone 5S. It’s a beautiful, impressive piece of technology for sure, but it has been in my purse or on my nightstand more than it has in my hands.

Since I made my decision on this issue, I’ve been on several dates with My Guy, we’ve attended or hosted a few events as a family, the girls have achieved new milestones, I’ve made some interesting choices, and they’ve all gone unrecorded on Facebook. And I’m okay with that.
 

I’ve learned to get on social media sites only when I’m at my computer, usually when the kids are away or asleep, and when I’m with my family, unless it’s an urgent text or call, I’m completely in the moment with them. No more - are you ready for this? - shushing my girls because I was trying to capture our moment for others to see, only to - irony among ironies - step outside of our seemingly perfect, status-update-worthy moment myself.

I am deeply, regretfully embarrassed. But maybe that’s why I’m admitting to it so I will cut this shit out. Because, really, that had. to. stop.
 

And maybe it did. I think I am making progress anyway. The other day, when Little Miss, who was hanging upside down at the playground, was yelling, “look at me, look at me”, it felt good that I could respond with, “I am looking at you.”


Because I was. And just that little thing brought the biggest smile to her face - something I knew wouldn’t have happened had my attention been on my phone.


I’ve also been inspired by the Hands-Free movement - stepping away from mobile technology, which often contributes to a harried, hectic life, while spending time with the family - and I can feel the difference already. Less guilt, less insecurities. More gratitude, more joy. Who wouldn’t want that?


So far, being away from the “noise” of social media has given me back the gift of gratitude, as Glennon says. I am more keenly aware and therefore grateful for the moment I’m in with my family, my friends. Grateful for my perfectly imperfect, beautiful life that I was too absorbed in others’ to see.
 

It’s scary to think that I lost control. With Facebook, of all things.
 

But I think I’m back on track now. On Step 7 of the 12-Step program, although rather than cutting it off completely, I'm practicing moderation. Slowly learning to use social media in a way that allows me to answer Gretchen’s question with an unequivocal yes.

Smiling at my girlfriends’ reunion in Australia, nodding in agreement at a fellow mama's frustrations, and knowing that marriage equality is making strides - these are all things etched in the social media landscape, and they genuinely make me happy.

Occasionally, I will even contribute with an update of my own, from my little corner of this big, wild world, where there’s always plenty of room for everyone’s stories.
 

I just don’t need to know all of them to appreciate my own.





image source: Girl with Smart Phone by Naysan Naraqi



 



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An important realization: My role in all of this

StAugustine




Something - no, some things - happened, between our Florida vacation and here. Important realizations that I always knew at the back of my mind to be true, but didn’t really pay much heed until now.


After our visit to Orlando, and our encounter with the magical world of Disney, we headed back to the girls’ grandparents place for the next three days of our vacation and, except for another trip to see their great grandmother an hour’s drive away, we never left the house.
 

Granted, the Sunshine State rained on and clouded over us more than it did shine, but we could’ve worked around that. There were some glorious spots of blue skies after all.
 

And yes, an injury also prevented me from being my usual, active, need-to-explore-every-new-place self, but if I could handle 12 hours of Disney, I could handle a little more benign sightseeing, on top of the one we already did in St. Augustine, prior to our Orlando excursion.

But I think the main reason that we never left was, well, we didn’t
need to. The girls’ grandparents had an amazing pool, and the water babies that they are, that we all were, apparently, we were happy just to spend most of our time wading and floating and swimming and diving. There were games. There were screeching (in a good way), infectiously giggling kids. There was no pressure to follow a schedule.


Diving 



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Most importantly, there was family.

The girls didn’t care that they weren’t on their next Florida adventure, that they never even left the house. And for that matter, neither did I. Which is
really strange for someone like me, who travels for the sake of seeing new parts of the world, and not just to contain myself within four walls (and a backyard with a swimming pool).

And I realized that it’s the
family part that did it for us. It’s also what we lacked the most, living where we are.


So, realization number one? Family. Just how essential that is for my girls.



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Seeing them with their uncle and grandparents, I know now that we’re going to have to try harder, despite distances, to make the effort to make these reunions more frequent. My girls, who were bathed in love and attention while they were there, absolutely deserve the kind of bond that helps them - or
anyone, for that matter - thrive.

I grew up an only child who scarcely felt alone. I was raised by my extended family. We lived with my favorite aunt, and my maternal grandmother lived down the street. Even when we moved away in my teens, we had frequent family gatherings that made us tight.

Today, thousands of miles away, I see these gatherings on Facebook - relatives clad in festive sarees, gathering on special occasions - and I feel the pang of exclusion. Sure, being here was my choice. And the price I pay, the one that leaves me with no one here from my childhood but myself, is a dear one. When I was little, my family made me feel safe and whole and that I was part of something bigger. And now, I desperately want my girls to feel the same.

The thing is, it
is possible, albeit in a smaller scale. And my realization is that, yes, it’s tough, but it’s doable. And that’s what we’re going to be doing. Making more of an effort to make plans with the family so the girls continue to feel connected, even close, despite the distance.
 

There is nothing more beautiful than to see my girls feeling safe, loved, and happy - and I realized that when September gave them an unmistakable glow that only my best friend, who’s their honorary auntie, and their grandparents could bring.


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Family. It’s not a new thing. I’ve always realized its importance. But only now do I fully comprehend my role in this -
I have to work hard to nurture these bonds myself. I need to make plans. Extend invites. Include them in our daily lives, in the things we do, in the choices we make.

It doesn’t just happen from wishful thinking and fervent hoping. It happens because someone actively does something to make things happen. And if that someone has to be me, then so be it.

So now I know what I must do.

Realization number two? Well, that’s a post for another day. Because that’s a big one for me. One that took me a long time to admit. In fact, I’m still taking some time to collect my thoughts on it, doing some experiments along the way to confirm what I’ve known all along.


Until then, this will have to do.

Actually, this is giving us plenty to do, as we spent the last few days reorganizing our house, moving furniture, getting rid of some, and reassigning spaces just so we could comfortably accommodate their grandparents and uncle in the future. So that they know they are always welcome here. At anytime.

The holidays are upon us, and this year, at our house, we will have
family. What a wonderful thing to look forward to, and honestly, I can’t wait.



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