Thursday, November 20, 2014

Glorious

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I suppose I should write about Halloween and the girls’ costumes this year. That Little Miss was surprisingly not Queen Elsa from “Frozen” - she chose to be Wonder Woman instead - and Pickle was very surprisingly (and very oddly) a pink fairy princess, per her request. That My Guy and I were both confounded because of all the kids we know, she’s the least pink fairy princess of them all.



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But really, what I want to write about is the weather. I know, how boring, but for an ex-long-time Chicago resident living in Austin, the weather is the most exciting thing to me. And since we’re kinda sorta on Halloween, let’s start with that.



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For the first time in forever (cue the song from Frozen...because I’m a mother of two girls, hello?) the kids were trick-or-treating in just their costumes, minus the heavy coat and gloves and hat. They went door to door after a romp at a mini neighborhood block party where kids jumped in a bouncy house, in short-sleeved or skimpy costumes nonetheless, and no one, not a single person, was cold. It was a glorious (and I use this word a lot to describe the current season here, just so you’re warned; that way you can be judicious with your eye-rolling) 70-degree weather that had us ex-Chicagoans giggling like schoolgirls - is this for real?

On a day where old friends and neighbors from Chicago posted about a day of snow, hail, and freezing rain, as well as a flooded Lake Shore Drive from abnormally high waves from Lake Michigan, it didn’t seem right that we were enjoying a day like we had this Halloween. But then again, I told myself, we had done our time in snow, hail, and freezing rain. We were there last year when our girls were drenched in icy rain while trick-or-treating; barely two blocks into it and we had to call it off. It was just too much.

I knew how my Chicago friends felt this year, and my heart went out to them. It just wasn’t fair to the kids. I couldn’t in good conscience post about our Halloween on Facebook that day; I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get unfriended en masse. But I choose to write about it now because the weather is all I think about these days.

As a transplant from the north, everything here in the south is still so new to me, especially the weather. We left Chicago for many reasons but chief among them was that we’re just so done with the harsh winters that sometimes linger long past their welcome. Snow in April? Fuck that.

Granted, the Fall here isn’t as spectacular, color-wise, although the temperatures have been rather glorious (ahem) - 70’s and perfect blue skies for weeks! I was seeing only the candy colors of summer well into the end of October, and the green leaves remained a vivid green, mocking me with their vibrance. For someone who relishes the warm and ruddy colors of this season, I was a little annoyed. I can’t help it; I’m a freak for Fall. I make banners with colorful fallen leaves, mull wine with aromatic and decidedly autumnal spices, pick apples at an orchard with my family, look forward to all things pumpkin, and happily get cozy in a warm hoodie and tall boots. So far, Fall here meant a lovely reprieve from triple-digit heat, which was great and all, but I needed more.

And then came November, when all the leaves were on the ground in the northern part of the country, probably covered in snow, and something magical started to happen. The leaves started to change. Gasp! The green hills are now textured with varying shades of amber, yellow, and orange. It’s not like New Hampshire or even Chicago; heck, it’s not even close, but I will take what I can get.

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The picture doesn’t do the view justice, but how cool that this is in my neighborhood

 

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And this along my drive home
 

I know I should be recording details of Halloween for the girls (they had a great time and a basketful of goodies, what more can I say?), or even the fun Frozen birthday party we had at our house for Little Miss, but really, all I can think about is that the leaves are changing, the leaves are changing, THE LEAVES ARE CHANGING, and it’s finally gloriously, wonderfully, truly Fall y’all!

 

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This too, on our route home, a few minutes from the house. Also known as my happy place.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A birthday letter to my Little Miss Six-Year-Old

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My dearest Little Miss,

You are six today. SIX! I express the disbelief of most parents when I realize that the child I’m holding no longer fits the nook of my cradled arms that seemed like they were meant to protect all of you once upon a time. Now that feels impossibly long ago. These days you hang heavily and precariously from our grasp, your gangly limbs flailing and foreign. When you see us carrying your sister or hanging her by her legs or tossing her in the air, you squeal, “Do that to me! Do that to me!”, not realizing that we might break our back doing the same for you. But still we try. Because we, too, have a hard time letting go of the notion that our first baby really isn’t a baby anymore.  

So much has happened in the last year, since you turned five. Let’s see…we experienced the worst winter ever in Chicago (remember when school closed on the day it was a high of –16? Brrr!). But even then I think you remembered and loved the record snowfall the best, conveniently forgetting the part where it was too cold to even go outside to play in the snow that turned to blocks of ice the very next day. That winter might have had something (a lot) to do with our decision to move here to Austin this last spring, where you started a new life in this new state, at a new preschool, with new friends, and even learning a new language, Mandarin. Then we bought a house and you had to move once again from our temporary apartment that you adored to our new home, uprooting you one more time in three months. Once summer was over, you took another giant step into Kindergarten, where once again, you had to make new friends and learn new rules. You even learned to take the school bus.

I am wrought with guilt, fear, and worry like any parent, but now that I’ve seen you go through so many of life’s big changes with barely a blip on your radar (except for the part where you had changed your favorite color from pink to blue), it assures me that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And that, my darling, is a wonderful thing.

You astounded me with the grace and vigor with which you had managed these changes. Sure, you sometimes pine for Chicago (I still do), you complained about the heat here (who can blame you?), you miss your old friends (I feel the same) and you say you miss the snow (your daddy thinks you’re crazy, but I secretly miss it too), but that just means you’re normal. Whew! Six years into this whole parenthood thing, I realize now that, for me, normal is the new awesome. Except your standards are a little higher than mine. You don’t just settle for normal.

 

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In the last year, you’ve also impressed us with your aptitude, enjoying multiplications at age five, testing into the best elementary schools in Illinois, and now you’re reading at 5th grade level. All of this became the driving force behind where we bought our home, so you could be challenged in a district with the best schools in the area. You are the reason we strive higher, but it can also be exhausting to have to keep up with your high demands and expectations. With you, we find ourselves constantly questioning if what we’re doing is enough, and this is where we often clash. Why can’t she just be happy? we find ourselves asking that question a lot, and we do everything we can to achieve a middle ground that satiates your voracious appetite for more, more, more but also encourages you to be grateful for what you do have.

I have to admit, I struggle with that greatly, because sweet pea, you don’t just make it easy do you? That is not to say that you’re a difficult child. You’ve always been good with following rules, whether at home or in school. Compared to your sister, who often confuses rules with mere suggestions, you have a penchant for a set structure and the black and white, which helps us immensely when we’re trying to establish a more peaceful environment at home. But that also means you have little patience for your sister, who seems a little feral when she doesn’t abide by the same sense of order that you like. However, in most cases, you just cave in and copy her, which flabbergasts us, although we know you do it because you default to behaviors that yield the most attention. As most kids your age do.


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But you also do plenty that most kids your age don’t. I love that you can easily entertain yourself during the two-hour quiet time while Pickle (fights her) naps. At this time, you devour several books in one sitting, you enjoy your limited screen time on your Nintendo DS, you pretend you’re a princess/queen/teacher/mom/baby/sister/witch as you play on your own. I find you lyrics on the Internet to songs on the radio and you sing your little heart out to them, and I laugh when you tell me that you can’t get certain songs like “Cool Kids” and “Riptide” out of your head. Oh I so know the feeling. 

Parents with younger children are often amazed at your age - “she’s only five?” – and how nurturing you are with their toddler, which always surprises me since you’re usually rough and gruff with your sister, but I suspect that’s just a sibling thing. I’ve seen you play gently with Pickle, I’ve watched you try to make her feel better when she’s hurt, and I am warmed by your sweetness. Every time I see this side of you, it gives me profound hope that maybe, just maybe, we’re doing something right.


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I don’t know if all of this makes you a typical six-year-old, but I do know that I am so grateful, so happy and so proud to be your mom. It’s an honor to be able to watch you grow into this beautiful little girl you are today, and I can’t wait to see you become the incredible woman that I know you will be someday. Or maybe I can.

With all the love in the world and then some,
Your mommy.


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Our wedding day

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The girls jumped into our bed first thing in the morning, and I girlishly proclaimed, “Yay! It’s our wedding day!” although I think the girls were just happy to skip school that Tuesday morning and get into their new outfits. (Priorities!) We rolled around in bed a little more since special days should always begin this way before getting ready for the big moment. My Guy dressed them in their brand new dresses and sparkling shoes, and every adult but me took turns entertaining them while I tried to recall the makeup techniques I learned from YouTube and applied them with a nervous hand. I wanted to look like myself, but I didn’t want to look like I always did, which made it a little tricky, especially for someone with so little training in this department.

 

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The guys left with the girls first, and I drove my best friend and I in the convertible, trailing 30 minutes behind, to the venue in south Austin, 45 minutes away from our home. Because we wanted a simple affair that best reflected our own personalities and values, I decided against a fussy hairdo and went with a simple low ponytail, not that I had a choice. It was all I could manage. However, the result wasn’t half bad when I decided to go with a bridal accessory that I found in the eleventh hour (as in the night before) because the one I ordered from Etsy.com took an unfortunate detour and never arrived (thanks, US Postal Service).


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It was no fluke that the wedding was mostly outfitted by items ordered online (including my dress and shoes, the girls’ attire, My Guy’s jacket, and our rings - oh yeah, even the rings); we were pretty adamant in being ourselves for the entire affair, and if Amazon.com ruled our daily life, why should the wedding be any different? Besides, when you have a wedding to plan in less than a month, who has the time to go dress and ring shopping anyway? We went to a jeweler once for our rings and the experience felt so weird to us that neither of us wanted to go back. Thank goodness for Amazon where you could procure everything but livestock. (Don’t quote me on that – I’m not entirely sure that you can’t either.) 


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The dress, however, came from a U.K. based fashion site that I discovered while trolling the Internet for the perfect attire for the occasion. It took me very many painstaking hours to finally decide - long dress? short dress? bridal? casual? white? ivory? some color? no color? modern? cute? elegant? fun? - and asking My Guy didn’t help.

Me: Hey, what do you think I should wear? What would you like to see me in?
Him: Something skimpy?

Ugh. He can be such a boy sometimes.

 

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When I did find the dress, I was apprehensive about ordering it even though I loved what I saw because it’s always hard to gauge the fit and fabric from a picture, and it would have to cross the Atlantic to get to me. As if ordering sight unseen from a website I never knew existed wasn’t challenging enough (see missing hair accessory above). But I did it anyway because, honestly, I was just so sick of looking at dresses online. The moment I wore it when it arrived, however, I knew this was it. Whew!


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In the end, everything worked out. I even got to have my groom stand at the altar to watch me walk down the aisle in my dress for the first time, and while this experience was not new to me, having been married before in a more traditional setting, it was still extraordinary to see My Guy at the chapel, waiting for me.

 

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He looked gorgeous in his jacket, tie and jeans. He’d been in jeans pretty much his whole professional and personal life, and being in anything but would’ve been wrong that day, so there he was, waiting for me, looking exactly like the man I’ve always known. The only man I want to be with for the rest of my life.

 

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The girls walked slowly as instructed down the aisle first, and took their places, one on each side of the chapel, Little Miss with her uncle and Pickle with her aunt. The officiant, who we met minutes before the event, read the vows that we’d redlined and returned to her over email. When prompted for the ring, the girls held a book each (“Harry Potter” and “World War Z” respectively because wizards and zombies, yo!) with a ring on it and carefully walked it over to us. Our little ring bearers then went back to their seats and quietly listened to us exchange our vows the rest of the time, which was all of five minutes.

 

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After we were pronounced man and wife in a ceremony that took about 10 minutes, we rang the 200-year-old bell at the chapel together. And just like that, we were married.

 

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We took more time with pictures than we did for any other part of the wedding, making sure to capture every angle of the beautiful scenery - the hill country vistas, the rugged Texas landscape, the rustic details of the venue, the native plants in the gardens. It was everything I loved about our new state in one small area. The girls, not surprisingly, grew tired of pictures quickly and spent the rest of the time with their aunt and uncle who kept them so well occupied that no one approached us with any issues during the session that ran longer than planned.


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When we were done, we drove our starving bellies to Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Oak Hill for some “ gourmet Texan” cuisine, where I pigged out on some pimiento cheese dip and chicken-fried steak. Naturally. It seemed that today was as much a celebration of Texas as it was a celebration of our union, and I was okay with that. It’s all one big love affair after all. Pickle took a short nap on her uncle, but when the food arrived, she opened her eyes, looked around and said, “I didn’t know we were here alweady.”


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Post-wedding festivities continued after some down time at home. I hired a sitter who watched the girls while the rest of the wedding party (all four grownups) went to three different places for cocktails and food that evening that started out on Rainey street in downtown Austin. More indulgences, more cured and delectable meats, more craftily prepared cocktails and dishes on small plates, more laughter, more of the same, wonderful things we’ve had in the last few days leading up to the wedding since our best friends arrived.



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These are friends who expect nothing from us, and maybe that’s why being around them always gives us a sense of complete ease that one often finds in those who truly know who and what we are, from the very core of our beings, and love us no matter what. Who are genuinely happy for us, who understand and appreciate the complexities of our life with our girls, who have always stood by and continue to stand by us without judgment, and who were there solely to celebrate us as a couple. My Guy and I were acutely aware of just how lucky we were that they were there for us in every way that day, and we were so very grateful.

In the end, there was no long white dress, no veil, no bridal bouquet, no cutesy party favors, no Pinterest-inspired decorations, no guests to wow, no clinking of glasses, no centerpieces, no bubbles, no seating charts, not even a flower girl. It was nothing like the kind of wedding I’d envisioned in my dreams as a little girl.

 

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But I’m not that little girl anymore. Over the years, I’ve learned that not all conventions work for everyone, and for two people who came to where we are today by rather unconventional means, it wouldn’t feel right to stick to a script that really wasn’t meant for us. So we rewrote our story in a way that would best represent us - delicious food, supportive friends, and yes, even jeans - and maybe that’s why it was perfect.

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It was not the wedding of my dreams; in fact, it was better.

 

TheMeaningfulSix

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