Three Christmas seasons ago, while I was pregnant with Hank, one of my fellow teachers gave me a Christmas card that I will never forget. Inside it she had written: Your holidays are about to get sooooooooo much better!
I didn’t get it at the time, but boy, I sure get it now. This Christmas has been infinitely more special, already; thanks to the excited little two-and-a-half-year-old who started his Christmas countdown at Halloween. (He made one adorable little “Ho-Ho,” minus the white beard!)
Don’t get me wrong–I have always loved Christmas, but I have never loved its tendency to overwhelm me each year. No matter how prepared I am. There’s such high expectations, and only so many days to get it all done!
Then there’s the whole “meaning.” We debate so much about what Christmas is all about; whether it’s the birth of Jesus or the giving of gifts or the spreading of holiday cheer. The battle of “Presence” vs. Presents. The scramble to do all the things for all the people you love, that you can’t seem to find time/energy/motivation to do throughout the rest of the year. Is this really the only time of year we can take the time to send out a written greeting to our friends or take a family photo? To make a batch of cookies and take some to a friend? Or bring chocolates to your best customers? It’s usually the only time I do any of those things! And then there’s the unavoidable holiday stress; the long list of to-do’s and check-offs and projects and wish-lists. It is so easy to get wrappedup in it all! (Pun intended) 🙂
However. The wise prediction in that dear teacher’s card was spot-on. The Christmas blues tried to get me down this year, but luckily, my little boy’s spirit wouldn’t let them. Not this year! Not with this precious toddler, filled from his blonde ringlets right down to his chubby little toes with anticipation and excited energy. Filled with absolute magic.
Santa hasn’t even gotten here yet, and already this has been my most meaningful Christmas, by far. Now that I have truly seen Christmas through the eyes of my child–through those innocent blue eyes that don’t see to-do lists or piles of unfinished wrapping–I have also seen the magic.
Because ALL he sees is the magic.
After tucking him in last night, I stayed a while in his cozy dark nursery, watching the light from glittery snow flickering on the walls as it spun in the special snow-globe his daddy bought him a few weeks ago. And as I sat there, I saw the Christmas magic. But the magic wasn’t the Santa in the snow globe, or the glittery snow floating around him in the current.
The magic was the curly blond head peeking out of the blanket in the crib just below it, peacefully dreaming about “Ho-Ho.”
(And likely, the “big huge excavator” that he’s hoping Ho-Ho will bring down our chimney soon.)
As a life-long lover of language, one of my very favorite parts of motherhood is watching our little man figure out how to communicate. We have been compiling a list for the last two months or so, of our favorites from his own funny little vocabulary.
I never want to forget these adorable Hank words, because I know he will replace them with the “right” ones before we know it! (If only I could freeze time–I would–rightnow.)
BIG Dede: Grandma Dede
BIG Pop-pop: Grandpa Gil
Dig-Dig: Excavator or skid-steer
Beep-Beep: Dump truck
Co-Co: Roscoe (or any dog)
Tiny home: camper
Num-num: any food, or also any meal
BIG bath: lake or pool
Co-Co Bee: a stuffed dog
Big up: high
HoHo: Santa Claus
And his favorite request, currently:
“Hum-mum’s house, eat, NOW, pwease?!”
Hank is our dinner bell–
“Num-num time, boo-boosh!!”
Our compassionate little helper when mommy is sick–
“Is ok, mommy!”
And our reminder that even the littlest ones with the fewest words want to be part of the conversation–
“Talk Hank, too.”
May we never forget to listen to his tiny words; they carry such great meaning!
I couldn’t be more blessed with this beautiful child, and each new day with him is a gift. Watching his world get a little bigger every day is my truest joy!
I’ve made stunning 4-tier wedding cakes, perfectly iced in homemade buttercream; cakes which took days to bake, ice, assemble and decorate.
It was nothing for me to crank out 4 loaves of bread from scratch on any old Saturday morning, or whip up a few dozen cinnamon twists to send to work with my hubs for his crew.
I LIVED for brioche, trying every recipe I could find until I finally made the perfect, airy loaf. (I’m pretty sure this is the exact brioche Marie Antoinette was talking about.)
I used to be one hell of a baker.
Until I had a baby, that is.
These days, I feel good when I get a box cake made on time for a birthday in our household, and even better if I actually remember the candles!
So when my sister stopped by with a dozen gorgeous red apples, fresh off their tree a few days ago, I was inspired. I just HAD to bake something. Something GOOD.
“Hank!” I said. “Let’s bake a pie!”
Now, friends, this is NOT what a perfect apple pie is supposed to look like. Not even close.
What it does look like, is exactly what it is: a pie a toddler baked.
Old Me would never have stood for it. Old Me would have thrown out the torn-up, over-worked pastry that sat in our fridge two days longer than it should have, and made fresh. She would have rolled it and lined that pie plate smoothly and evenly, then pinched perfectly-even flutes all around the edges to seal the top.
Today though, for the first time ever, I had a helper. And Hank wanted to do it ALL. He wanted to roll the crust out with the big huge rolling pin. And mix the ingredients. And peel the apples with that fun old crank peeler his great-grandma gave us. He wanted to do all of it.
All. By. Himself.
So, you know what I did?
I let him!
I’m NOT that perfect baker I used to be–I just can’t be. I’m way too busy being mom. (And that’s even better.)
When that sweet two-year-old woke up early from his nap today, we spent that extra hour making the ugliest apple pie I have ever made.
It may be the ugliest pie I’ve made, but it is the pie I’m proudest of.
(And it tasted far sweeter than any of the pretty ones ever did.)
“We’ll go when he starts sleeping through the night,” my husband and I promised each other.
We both missed those kid-free, not-a-care-in-the-world nights when we used to go out dancing, or to dinner and a movie. Those glorious mornings when we could sleep in til 8:00 am (8:00 am!) without a baby monitor waking us up before the sun came up.
Even though we missed those nights, we also adored the chaos of our big crazy family. With four kids between us, we never seem to find much “alone” time. But you know what? Even so–we wouldn’t change it. We both understand that someday, we will have more “alone time” than we will know what to do with. So right now, we are all-in on our “six-pack” family.
In my recent evolution from (half-time) step-mom to full-time mom, I learned that life with the littlest of littles is basically parent, work, sleep, repeat. While it is the most glorious blessing; one thing I found it doesn’t allow for much is dating of your husband!
But a few weeks ago, on a short break between sports seasons, we realized we had some rare free evenings on our hands. And miraculously, the two-year-old was still sleeping through the night like a champ.
First things first. I have a label that needs cleared up. By Webster’s definition of the word: I am a feminist. I agree; proudly.
Definition of feminism
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
But by the internet’s definition of the word, as of late; being a feminist also makes me: a man-hater, a psychopath, disrespectful, a fear-mongerer, a “sheep,” a crazy lib, a baby-killer, vulgar, and a Trump-hater.
Hmmmmm. Now wait a minute. When did a peaceful movement for women’s rights around the globe become such a grounds for attack? (NOTE–I did not call it a *protest* because it was not a protest, as so many of its critics have mislabeled it.)
And why are the biggest opponents of it, mostly WOMEN?
Why are so many women so pissed off that the rest of us felt like celebrating how far we have come, while standing in solidarity on how far we also have left to go?
I have read their points. Is life in America pretty great? You bet. But are there still factual inequalities, and marginalized groups still needing attention, both in our country and abroad? You bet. Pretty sure phrases like “Glass Ceiling” wouldn’t be in our vocabulary if there wasn’t one.
Are there women in positions of power in major corporations today?
Absolutely. I acknowledge that yes, there sure are. It IS possible. Should there be more? YEP.
There is no need for me to rattle off all the myriad ways women STILL aren’t quite on a level playing field, because that has been done beautifully by many other writers over the past few weeks. You can search for about two seconds on the Internet and find those lists, if you really want to read them.
You can also find some rather lengthy and poorly-written rants floating around too, admonishing those of us who are proud of the peaceful movement the Women’s March represented. Even if we didn’t agree with 100% of what went on in it. (Was Madonna inappropriate? Um, hello, she’s MADONNA. Would I have worn a full vagina costume to the March? Nope, but that lady had the right to, and I am not about to judge her for it! You do you, lady!)
Where am I going with this, you ask?
Well–I am going to a place nobody ever wants to talk about, because it doesn’t cause any flame-fanning or insult-wars or un-friending or viral-sharing on facebook, and it certainly doesn’t make the media any money.
I am going to a place called THE MIDDLE.
Why? One reason:
I am so tired of everything being either Left or Right.
You marched, so you are a MAN-HATER.
You are pro-choice, so you want to KILL BABIES.
You watch FOX News, so you are obviously the FAR RIGHT.
You read the Huffington Post, so you are obviously the FAR LEFT.
Well I can’t speak for the rest of you, my friends, but I would argue that no, I am actually pretty much smack dab in the MIDDLE.
I am proud to call myself a Gun Totin’ Liberal. Here’s why:
-I LOVE my guns. 🐘
-I LOVE hunting and shooting clays, heck even just shooting for the sake of shooting. I have a loaded 38 special in a locked case in my bedroom, because my husband travels a lot, and I want a backup in case my security system doesn’t keep the bad guys away. (And I am a good shot, too!) 🐘
-I am ALL for capitalism. 🐘
-Property rights are HUGE (read:YUGE) to me as a member of a family farm/ranch. 🐘
-I believe global warming is a valid concern that we should give a damn about. 🐴
-I drive a big gas-guzzling Tahoe to haul our huge family around, so I definitely rely on the petroleum industry. 🐘
-I am a very proud feminist. 🐴 (Which my husband SUPPORTS, btw. Because men of quality truly do support equality. Even republican men who support Trump 100%, while their wives respectfully disagree and vote for the opposing candidate. My amazing husband and I are a team, and he doesn’t WANT me to “obey” him, he wants me as a willing partner in our marriage, our family, and our household. I don’t have to “let him lead” and he doesn’t have to let me “raise the kids.” We split everything pretty much 50/50. Really. We do.)
-I am PRO-CHOICE. (As well as anti-abortion. Hear me on this: No one likes abortion. But we do like ALL options to be on the table, and for those options to be OUR choice for our own bodies.) 🐴
-I think our country ought to be able to figure out a better fix for managing immigration than just walling ourselves in. If we can fly to the moon, can’t we figure out how to get people from other countries in safely (and appropriately) and then back home, if their paperwork expires? 🐴 🐘
-I realize we need some amount of *gasp* socialism (yes I really did mean to type that word) to keep our country working smoothly. We need Medicaid. We need some unemployment. We farmers and ranchers love our programs and subsidies, such as CRP, crop insurance, or other programs in the Farm Bill. I love the idea of a one pay health insurance, or at very least an open marketplace like so many presidents worked tirelessly on right up until Obama finally got it pushed through. Can we improve on it? Surely. But do we need it? Hell yes we do! 🐴 🐘
So these are just a small sample set of the many ways I cannot be put in a box with a label on it under LEFT or RIGHT. Under Democrat or Republican. And I think my views probably represent, at least in part, views of many other Americans.
So why then, do we keep drawing the hard line? I am tired of hearing all the things “I AM” or “I AM NOT” because I didn’t vote for Trump. I am just another American.
I want him to succeed as our president every bit as much as I would have wanted Hillary to succeed as our president.
I may not have supported him as my candidate of choice in the election, but I considered him. Even so, I was proud as punch watching the beautiful celebration that was our Presidential Inauguration. Regardless of my vote,
I am Patriotic AF.
(Ok, sorry, I had to.) I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans, in every single election I could, based on the research I did on issues and who I thought would do a better job.
I CAN have liberal views mixed in with some conservative ones.
I CAN support Planned Parenthood for all its many positives, and still not support abortions without cause.
I CAN be Catholic and still choose to be on birth control because I don’t want ten kids. (Thankyouverymuch.)
I CAN respectfully listen to your views, and you can respectfully listen to mine, and even if we don’t agree on all of them, we can both still be good Americans and good neighbors.
And I WILL wear pink proudly, because whether you are or not, I am proud of the great strides we are making in the world of equality. EVERYONE SHOULD WANT EQUALITY FOR EVERYONE.
I suggest we all just sit back, take a big deep breath, and thank God (whoever your God may happen to be) for the blessing that is Freedom and Free Speech.
Love thy neighbor, even if you don’t agree with him. (or HER!)
Let’s all try to be just a little bit nicer to each other.
Regardless of the outcome of the election–2016 has already been a paramount year for women in politics. For the first time in history, a woman earned the honor of being one of the nominees in our presidential election.
It’s about time.
It seems almost too perfect that it has been exactly 100 years since our first great stride for women in politics.
In 1916–exactly 100 years ago–Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to be elected to a federal office when she was voted into the United States House of Representatives by the state of Montana. I am incredibly proud to call that great state home.
Equally noteworthy is the fact that when Jeannette Rankin was voted into Congress, women in our country hadn’t yet earned full voting rights. It wasn’t until four years later, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, that women were actually allowed to vote in both state and federal elections. She fought hard for that right as one of the first suffragists in Congress, and women voters have been thanking her and her fellow suffragettes ever since.
Jeannette Rankin is a Montana legend. A role model to all women, both in our state and across the nation; she paved the way for women in politics. Ms. Rankin’s Montana memorial site is featured in an almost-haunting photograph taken and recently shared on Instagram by Kurt Wilson, a photojournalist for the Missoulian. The picture showcases how her headstone (located in the Missoula City Cemetery) got some special visitors on this unprecedented Election Day. Of course; I can only speculate as to who put their “I Voted” stickers on her headstone, or brought her the lovely fresh flowers, but I do have a hunch.
I choose to believe they were women; women coming directly from their local polling places, proudly celebrating the fact that they had just cast their vote for the first woman to ever have a shot at being President of the United States of America.
Today, I wish more than anything, that Missoula wasn’t a six hour drive away, as I would love nothing more than to add my own tribute to that revolutionary lady. I would love to take my own mason jar of white roses to leave at that significant headstone, to thank her for her hard work.
A woman didn’t win this election, but a woman ran.
Jeannette Rankin, on behalf of women voters everywhere, we thank you for being brave. Thank you for your determination, and thanks for proving to our country that women can be leaders, too. May we carry your torch, and do you proud.
And I sure hope you are looking down on us, so you can see those beautiful stickers on your headstone.
Today, after weeks of clumsy stutter-steps and tip-overs, my baby boy is walking. Walking. On his own. Across the kitchen, across the lawn, across the deck-all he wants to do now is walk. He reaches out his hand and squeaks at whoever is closest to him, as if to say, “Hey, you, help me get started!” Then he pops up on his chubby little feet, gets his balance, and he is off. Three, four, maybe six steps and then he flops back down onto his hands and knees, looks for the nearest person (or wall) to help him up, and he is off again.
All he wants to do all day is walk. And all I want him to do is curl up in his little muslin swaddling blanket and be three months old again, sleeping on my lap in my rocking chair.
So now I remember that anxious feeling I had for a few weeks once baby Hank was finally here last May. Seeing him actually walking now, not only do I miss my tiny baby, and the fact that he spent most of his time in my arms, but I even kind of miss being pregnant. In my tummy he had everything he needed-around the clock-and as long as he kept kicking me, I knew he was ok!
I loved being pregnant. After so much time wondering if I was even able to get pregnant, I was half-surprised when I did, so I made it my mission to do everything just right! I ate a ton of healthy things so I could grow that big baby up healthy and strong. I stayed away from caffeine and my beloved nightly glass of wine. I slept as much as I could. I drank tons of water and took all my vitamins. And I felt like in my safe, huge tummy I could make sure he was alright, because I could make all those choices for him. Control freak? Yep! You bet I am, but I own it 100%!
The tiny part of me that doesn’t want him to be walking yet is that same part who was terrified once he entered the big scary world. He spent most of his first week of life in a plastic rolling bassinet parked under blue UV lights with goggles on-because he was so jaundiced-and I know for a fact I cried as much as he did that week. I couldn’t pick him up to soothe him other than when he needed fed; his daddy and I just had to sit by his little “bed” night and day. We tried to talk to him through his relentless screaming to let him know we were at least close by, until he fell asleep. We would crash right alongside him, grateful for a break from feeling sad for him. I couldn’t fix it for him, and it was the most horrible, helpless feeling I have ever experienced. I made up for those missed snuggles in the weeks that followed, but I still felt that same helplessness every time he went in for another of his million heel pokes to keep checking that bilirubin level.
Motherhood is hands-down, the most wonderful, scary, exciting, stressful, rewarding, and bittersweet thing I have ever experienced. I get it now-what all the other mothers meant when they told me about their own babies growing up. They told me it would feel like my heart would go walking around outside of my chest. All of a sudden, mine is, and it is terrifying.
I realize I can’t wrap the little tornado up in bubble wrap, but I sure wish I could! I am thrilled for him and love nothing more than his proud little face and those adorable little squeals of both pride and frustration, but part of me is mourning, too. My baby boy is gone. And in his place-overnight-is a wild and crazy toddler. A TODDLER! And I better get my sneakers on, because this kid is about to hit the ground running. I just hope I can keep up!
Today I get to spend my 2nd Memorial Day as a mom, and since I’m not recovering from a C-section this time I have a much clearer, pain-killer-free mind. Today, I couldn’t feel more grateful for all the sacrifices our servicemen and women have given which allow me the freedom to just sit in total peace. To sit in an Adirondack chair on my sunny porch and deadhead my flowers while I watch my son ride around on the lawnmower with daddy. To reach over and scratch my Great Dane’s ear while he lays next to me lazily on the porch. To know that I have the freedom to go to the office today if I want, or not, if I choose not to. These are freedoms I don’t take for granted, but do I fully grasp their significance?
Bill read me part of an article last night from his news feed on his phone, about more than 700 Libyan refugees who are feared to have drowned while trying to cross the sea to freedom. To freedom. How many of those refugees are moms, I wonder? How many of the ones who didn’t make it to freedom, would have been moms someday if they had?
I don’t have to worry about loading my baby and a backpack of possessions into a boat headed for freedom, I simply wake up free each morning, by the grace of God. Because my stars said that I would be born in Montana, in the good old US of A. Why am I so lucky and so many Libyans and Syrians these days, so unlucky?
I am so blessed to have the honor of living in this country. I need to be more mindful of the fact that it truly is an honor. Even when I may not have a clue who to vote for in an election, or be thrilled about paying those darn estimated income taxes on June 15th; those are still privileges I will think differently about from now on. I am certain, that any one of the Libyans on that boat would have been damn happy to trade places with me, and pay those income taxes, because it means I have a job in a free country. And that I have a say in who our next president will be, even if I haven’t figured out yet what that say will be.
I will think harder about encouraging our boys to consider the military for careers, (if professional baseball doesn’t work out, of course.) I will pay closer attention when my sweet Grandpa Gil tells us stories about joining the Navy at 16. And I will be shaking more hands and thanking more soldiers when I see them out and about. To say thanks, for my freedom to sit and drink this coffee in peace. And especially, for Hank’s freedom. To know that my son will have every freedom that I have, and that he will get to grow up in this land of opportunity, is a huge blessing. To know that he will not have to run, like so many others are doing from their countries-or float away from home on a crowded boat-to try to find what we have here. In the land of the free. America, God bless you! And I send up a heartfelt thank you, to every one of you who so selflessly gave your lives to keep it free for all of us lucky Americans.
“You can sleep when you’re dead.” – Every Parent Ever