Greetings From Isolation

Goodness, my children, it’s been over two years since I dropped you a note on here. So much has happened in our lives since then. We moved from Dayton, OH to Norman, OK. Remind me to tell you the story of that someday. The morning the movers arrived to load the truck, both of you woke up with a rash on your stomachs and hands. You were both diagnosed with strep throat but the doctor also suspected Hand Foot & Mouth Disease so we had to figure out a way to go 14 hours across the country without you two encountering anyone. Shenanigans ensued, but we made it, and the three of us spent one week in a completely empty house and one week unpacking the house before Mitchell started kindergarten. Rosie, you got stitches from running into the corner of a wall (ok technically Covey bumped you) in 2019 and then “got a new belly button” (had hernia repair) over spring break. Mitchell, that October we found out that your hearing was down to 60% and in December you had your adenoids removed and tubes inserted. Your amazement and then anxiety at how “loud the world is” definitely made me feel like Mother Of The Year, but I swear you’d always passed your hearing tests up to that point with flying colors.

Rosie, you stayed home with me for Mitchell’s kindergarten year. I wish I could have that year back. I was never alone. You came with me to everything, except for the few hours per week that I volunteered in Mitchell’s classroom. We started getting pedicures together and you don’t even look like you’re pretending to be a grown-up, you just are! When you started preschool, it felt like I was releasing you to the world. You had some growing pains in preschool (your teacher once said you “feel all the feels, and feel them very loudly” and it was one of the most accurate statements I’ve ever heard), but you adjusted and your sweet personality shines through. That preschool was the best possible fit for you and you grew so much in just seven short months. You were somehow born with an impeccable sense of manners. I’ve never had to coach you on “please” and “thank you”. You don’t say “no,” you say “no thank you”. When meeting someone, you almost always find a way to compliment them to start the conversation, like telling them you love their shirt or hair. You start kindergarten in about 30 minutes and I am completely unready to give up any more of my time with you.

Mitchell, you started kindergarten swearing you couldn’t read and within a couple weeks you were reading level 2 books. Your teacher moved up a grade with you when you went to first grade, and you two remain very close to this day. You call her every time you lose a tooth and have play-dates with her regularly. You are very matter-of-fact and want to know everything about everything. Your questions make me realize that I maybe should have paid better attention when I was in school. Sure I never needed that knowledge in my professional life, but I certainly need it now. When you develop an interest, you focus so intently on it that it consumes you. You were so focused on Minecraft for almost two years that you would only read Minecraft books, write stories about Minecraft, wear Minecraft clothes, etc. You’ve moved on to the How To Train Your Dragon franchise now and you know every single type of dragon, their strengths, their weaknesses, their special abilities, where they’re found, etc. I’ve been playing a turn-based app with you and you love to steal my phone to tell me all about the dragons I’ve hatched. You are incredibly empathetic to others. You can’t stand seeing Rosie get in trouble (which, as you like to say, parenting you is a level 1 difficulty and parenting Rosie is a level 10). If Rosie starts to get in trouble, you immediately come to her defense and do whatever necessary to keep her out of trouble. I don’t know how many times you’ve cleaned her room for her. You still have trouble connecting with others your age, but we’re slowly working on conversation skills. You are currently in your very first Zoom call of second grade, and you informed your teacher that you would now prefer to be called Mitchy. As your previous teacher pointed out, that’s an improvement over last year’s nickname, Bitchell (which you would write out, and then point an arrow to it and write “That’s my nickname, I’m Mitchell”).

So, Zoom meetings. That brings us to our next subject: the last five months. On March 14th, we traveled to Kansas for your Aunt Brooke’s wedding. The next day, when we got home, we began our shelter-in-place. The city of Norman officially locked down for the month of April. For about six weeks, the only time we left the house was for me to drop off checks for the school’s PTA. We got our groceries delivered, we waved at people from across the street when we went on walks, and we played hours and hours of Nintendo and watched hundreds of movies. I think we watched Frozen 2 and Onward at least a hundred times each. Then we watched the Ice Age series for a few weeks, and we’re currently watching and playing everything from the How To Train Your Dragon franchise. I built a swing set for you guys, complete with a two-level deck and slide, which Mitchell promptly labeled too dangerous and now you guys refuse to do anything but swing on.

During the month of June we joined a “quarantine bubble” with two other families who were equally socially distancing, which brought several outdoor playdates. We were especially grateful for the company as, emotionally, June was rough. We had to face some harsh truths as a society and trying to talk you guys through it without fully understanding it myself was a struggle, to say the least. Talking to other people became especially hard because there’s always something to disagree about, and the beliefs everyone is disagreeing about aren’t exactly “oh by the way” beliefs, but ones that form the bedrock of a person’s personality. Social distancing and wearing a mask became a “mark of the sheep”. Even those who happily wore a mask disagreed with social distancing or couldn’t understand it applying to them. And once the subject of schools reopening entered the public discourse, it was impossible to just say, “this is what my family and I will be doing” without facing backlash or the silence that means you’ve offended someone. By July the rest of Oklahoma and the midwest had decided they’d had enough of social distancing, mask-wearing, and empathy so the cases started going up, racism and bigotry became socially acceptable, and we felt even more strongly about staying distanced.

So far, August has brought the realization that this is our “new normal”; not the virus, but groups in the world who believe so strongly in their rightness that they will do anything to rally people to their cause or bring about the downfall of anyone who disagrees with them. There’s a level of hatred and disgust in the world that has made me retreat into my shell and I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever leave it again.

But guess what else has become the “new normal” in our house? Extreme amounts of quality time. A reaffirmation that we are enough. A genuine friendship and mutual enjoyment in each other’s company. It’s hard to explain the shift that occurs, when you pull out a deck of cards and can’t wait to play with your kids, not for just their entertainment, but for your own as well. But I will say, you two are total jerks in almost every card game we play and gang up on me and that is NOT COOL.

Will you remember that? In 20 years when you’re looking back at this time, will you remember the days that I sat at the kitchen table putting puzzles together because my anxiety was too high to do anything else, or will you just remember sneaking out of bed to help me work on the puzzle? Will you remember our epic “adventures” that included getting lost in parks around Norman or getting chased to the car by too-friendly, too-hungry geese? What about the science experiments? I really hope you remember the times we covered the bathtub in elephant toothpaste and not the times that you took it upon yourselves to add the food coloring to the whirlpool and I had to shut down science class to scrub the poor table. Will you remember the giant art projects that spread across the kitchen table and included feathers, pipe cleaners, cupcake wrappers, buttons, and just about anything else you could find? Or will you remember me walking in to a kitchen floor covered in glue and glitter and shutting down art for the day, even though Rosie kept insisting it’s ok, she just “arted.”

These five months have almost been a reset button for us. Your dad has worked from home since March and, given how many hours he’s worked per week for the last 6 years, it’s almost like he’s meeting his family’s daily life for the first time. Sharing an office hasn’t exactly been amazing, and we both work very weird hours, but it’s been worth it. Without all the extracurricular activities, we’ve just had time to fill instead of rushing around to every activity and never having time to just BE. It turns out, the day-to-day stress comes from outside our house, not inside.

Looking back, I realize that I put too much pressure on myself and allowed others’ opinions, feedback, and demands to cause me to shut down. I hope you didn’t notice that. I hope that when we talk about moments in your childhood when I was nearly immobilized from panic or anxiety that you’re shocked to hear of it. That you say, “Wow, Mom, I had no idea.” That’s probably wishful thinking. You’ll probably say, “Wow, Mom, so that’s why you were so mean sometimes.” But I guess it’s impossible to be a parent without being a human, and I won’t try to hide my struggles from you. Mostly because, honestly, when I’m feeling terrible, you two are my first choice to make me feel better. Because you two are awesome. It’s truly my greatest joy to be your mom.

By themagnificentms

Dear Baby Girl

Dear Baby Girl,

As you may have noticed, I’ve fallen quite short in recording your growth as compared to your brother. I’d love to spout all the common excuses, like it’s so much harder to catch your breath when there’s two (especially when neither have napped in YEARS), but the truth is, when it comes to you, I’m speechless.

You’ve left me speechless since day one. Even as a newborn, you seemed to allow me into your life under very specific terms, and then, eh, you could take it or leave it. But you were so darn CUTE that I couldn’t help always wishing that you just WANTED me more.

I try to maintain an objective demeanor around you. After all, someone had to resist your disarmingly charming ways, because Lord knows nobody else can say no to you. But not a moment goes by that’s I don’t look at you and think, “Is she truly mine?” It seems unfathomable that you could have come from me. Even at 3, you’re gorgeous. Your eyes seem to know exactly when to be blue, green, brown, or a mixture of all three. You’ve already started digging in my makeup, and I’ve already had foreshadowing conversations with you about why you don’t need makeup.

You throw the most adorable temper tantrums I’ve ever seen. You seem to melt into the floor, your lower lip quivering and the tears pooling in your eyes. You give me every chance to relent. I want nothing more than to give you your way, because you never fail to show your gratitude with hugs, kisses, and effusive “oh, thank you!”

When we’re out, you make friends instantly, despite always asking other kids if they’d like to touch your belly button, complete with shirt held up for all to see, like adults shake hands. Other moms look at me, expecting to see pride written all over my face, and I’m sure there’s some of that, but mostly I’m just baffled. Being liked comes so naturally to you, I can’t even understand it. Your manners are impeccable, with kids and adults alike. Everyone loves you. You border on a perfection that I never dared to imagine.

I still rock you to sleep every night. It’s the only time that you let your guard down and let yourself need me. I can’t even bring myself to complain about rocking you, because I know that, soon, you won’t even need this from me, your terribly imperfect mom. I rock you, and you cling to me, and I can’t imagine a better ending to my day.

One of these days, I’ll be no more than a bystander in your life. I know this, and I can see it so clearly it makes me cling to you even more.

I know you will spread joy, my baby. Your smile and your laugh is infectious. When you see pain, you rush to help. You’re only 3, but you already have made such a difference in the world. I can’t wait to see what your future holds.

By themagnificentms

Dear Teenage Mitchell

Dear Teenage Mitchell,

Hi there, Mom here. I thought I’d take a quick break from your preschool years to write you a quick note.

You love me. Like, a whole lot. A whole, whole lot. You just turned 5, and instead of stretching your little independent legs, you’ve tightened your grip on my leg. You scream at the thought of spending any time away from me. You sit on the toilet while I shower so we can continue our enthralling discussion of what it would be like to live on Jupiter. You spend every night on the floor next to my bed and ever morning curled up against me, little-spoon-style. You can’t wait to show me something new you’ve just seen in a book or update me on the goings-on of the Bubble Guppies tribe, even though I’m right there and already know. You love teaching me things, and since you have a steel trap for a brain and regularly converse with your dad about the solar system, you get the opportunity to give me new information quite a bit.

You’re pretty cool, so usually I don’t mind all this togetherness, but we’ve been trying to transition you to preschool, so I’ve been trying to get us both some space lately. You, obviously, don’t agree with the necessity of either preschool or personal space, so we’ve been at odds a bit these last couple weeks. But after a long day at the zoo during which you accompanied me to each and every bathroom break (2 kids + 1 adult = way more body mass than a restroom stall was designed to hold) I was feeling a bit wretched. On the way home, your grandpa reminded me that I’m your best friend.

Holy crap, he’s right! I am your best friend. There’s no other point in your life when you will choose me over all others. Ok, maybe once I employ some bribes, which I totally plan to do, but even then, you’ll most look forward to telling your friends all about your day when we’re done. And you’re fun. I genuinely look forward to showing you new things. Your happiness is infectious. I don’t buy you things or take you places because you throw a fit or whine, I do it because a smile from you can set our day on an entirely new course.

I guess what I want to say is, I love you, Mitchell. And right now that feeling is mutual. So when you’re a teenager and get embarrassed just being seen in public with me, can you maybe just remember how you felt as a 5-year-old and hang out with me for just a little bit? I miss you. I promise no singing (you can’t stand that even now).


By themagnificentms

I’m Grateful: an act of therapy

Sometimes life gets stressful. Sometimes things look very gloomy. Today is one of those times. And so I will make a list and remind myself to be grateful.

I’m grateful for my family. Obviously. It seems that every grateful list must start with this one.

I’m grateful that my son is naturally kind. I would love to take credit for his sweet, caring attitude and empathetic nature, but I also raised Rosie, whose greatest joy is a good titty twister, so obviously Mitchell was just born this way.

I’m grateful I will never have to remind my daughter that she is worthy. I pity the fool who is the first to tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl. She was born knowing that she can do anything if she puts her mind to it. She can play with dolls, she can paint her nails, and she can tackle her big brother to the ground. She can paint herself with mud, she can jump off the back of the couch, and she can cuddle with Mommy for hours. She can do anything.

I’m grateful that my husband constantly strives to be a better person. I am a much different person today than I was at 18. Obviously, part of that is due to just plain growing up, but I credit Justin for the majority of it. Always marry someone you want to emulate. My husband is kind, calm, and polite to a fault. When he sees somebody in pain or suffering, he wants to help. His goal in life is to make those around him happy.

I’m grateful my children have such love in their life. I’m one crazy mother and have a very long list of faults, but I love my children to excess. They have never questioned this, nor have they questioned their father’s love. But children need a bigger support network than this, and they have it. They regularly ask to call Grandpa and beg to stay at their aunt’s house so they can play with their cousin. They’re blessed with fantastic neighbors. I can see the love in their lives reflected in their own interactions with the world, and I’m so incredibly grateful that this is the base from which they will grow.

I’m grateful for the outdoors. This crazy house would never qualify for a Better Homes & Gardens photoshoot (not even the before pictures), but the backyard is a little slice of paradise. The many trees and shrubs create a forest-like atmosphere, and I could spend hours in my rocking chair on the patio. My black thumb has even managed to find some plants I can keep alive.

I’m grateful for the giant dog who hasn’t killed my kids yet. This morning I stepped into my office to start my day only to find that Covey had scattered the contents of my trash can far and wide, so I’m struggling a bit to be grateful for her right now. But I know I should be. This 100+ pound teddy bear lets the kids climb all over her and doesn’t bat an eye. She’s darn cute, too, and provided lots of great pictures.

I’m grateful for Mexican food. And, on that note, I’m signing off, because my awesome husband just offered to take me out for chips and salsa.

By themagnificentms

I Refuse To Release You

Baby girl, you a nearly two and a half. You don’t know it yet, but you are growing up and away from me with each passing day.

Every time I turn around, you’ve discovered a new way to stretch your independent legs. You wander a bit further from me; you reach for someone else. 

You represent a stage in my life that I’m not quite ready to leave behind, and so I refuse to release you into the full-blown toddler years that you so desperately want.

I’m Mommy. That is my personality right now. My hobby? Caring for my children. I barely exist outside of my babies. As I write this, I am relaxing in the quiet room of a spa, a gift from my husband to have some time completely to myself, and yet I haven’t stopped thinking of you and your giant crocodile tears as I left, screaming “Mommy, I’m coming!” 

As much as I resent it sometimes, I’m terrified of what comes next. What am I, without babies crawling on my lap, demanding to be nursed, held, carried, cuddled, tickled, and loved? I don’t remember what I did before. Read? Relaxed? 

Who will I be? Will I have friends? Without the excuse of babies, how will I explain the giant gaps in my social calendar? What will my husband and I talk about when we don’t talk about current developmental phases, poop, tantrums, etc.? 

And so, my baby, I hold you. When you come into bed at night, I cuddle you and know that my time is limited. When you ask to nurse (“Mommy, that’s MY booby!”), I unsnap the bra (assuming that you haven’t already, likely in the middle of public). I know you’re ready to be weaned, but what if this is the last reason you need ME? What if, once anyone can satisfy your needs, you decide I’m a relic of another time? What will I do then? What’s​next for me?

All I know is being a mommy to babies. And so I refuse to release you. I need you to be my baby, just a little while longer.

By themagnificentms

My baby’s surgery

Disclaimer: Mitchell had a minor hernia on his unmentionable area. He went in for outpatient surgery, and even though we were there so damn long I’m not sure it still counted as outpatient, it was no big deal. I’m just a wimp. 

On November 1st (yep, morning after Halloween), Mitchell and I trekked to Dayton Children’s Hospital, where I feel we spend way too much time as a family, for him to have a simple outpatient surgery to fix a mild hernia. So not a big deal. And for the most part I managed to keep telling myself that. At least, in front of Mitchell. But when they wheeled him down that hallway, I immediately squeezed my fists hard enough to draw blood. 

My baby is 4. But he’s my baby. Other than his weekly speech therapy appointments and the rare occasion he stays with Justin, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been apart in the last couple years. Luckily he’s pretty awesome, so it’s easy to spend time with him. But watching someone take him from me, no matter what the occasion, still hurts. I have no idea how we’re going to handle school. 

When they brought him back, the nurse casually mentioned that every time he woke up from the anaesthesia for a few moments, he cried for me. Approximately .00054 seconds after she closed the door, I crawled into bed with him and cried. How could I not be there when he cried? He was probably so scared! That was probably the cruelest thing a person has every said to me. I had nightmares for weeks about not being there for him when he’s scared. I’m there for every bump, every bruise, every nightmare, every hurt feeling. But not that. 

Luckily, he seems to have no memory of it. And I only took a couple pictures, so we can forget all about it. 

By themagnificentms

I hope I remember…

Several times per day, I say “I hope I remember…” to myself, trying to cement something in my memory, hoping to remember as many details as possible, hoping to keep this feeling for myself so I can call upon it during a dark moment, like when Rosie has attempted to flush an entire roll of toilet paper. 

You see, I’m terrified of forgetting things. Alzheimer’s is a worry, yes, but something that truly keeps me awake at night is the thought of losing my memories to the effects of time and busy lives: old memories give way to new memories. What if I lose the cherished memory of Mitchell’s very last nursing session to a t-ball schedule? Or the first time Rosie grabbed me in a bear hug to a memory of us fighting when she’s a teenager? 

Of course, we don’t really lose those old memories. They’re still there, they’re just pushed further back, waiting on someone or something to trigger the memory. And when the memory is triggered, we’re so ecstatic, we just have to share the memory. For instance, have you ever seem a grandparent watch their grandchild do something, say, run a toy car into the wall, and get way more excited than the achievement merits? Sure, the grandparent is probably legitimately excited for the child, but even more, she’s excited because that grandchild has just unlocked a memory of her own child, allowing her a brief visit with that child she lost to time so long ago. 

Mitchell is only 4 years old and I’ve already become that grandparent, sharing my stories and memories with other mothers in the play area who couldn’t care less. Poor Rosie triggers memories so often, I’m sure she wondered why, the cuter she acts, the bigger the hug Mitchell gets. 

I’ve heard my generation criticized for raising our children through the lens of our cell phone cameras, but I get it. I’m guilty of it. I only feel half bad about it, too. If there’s any chance of having something to trigger these memories, I’m taking it. That way, when the shit has hit the fan and I have two screaming children, a barking dog, dinner burning on the stove, and no beer in the fridge, I can pull up that video of us all dancing in the living room, laughing and having a good time, and give myself a mental deep breath. 

I know I can’t stop the progression of time. I know that my babies will grow, and I know that my memories will fade. I know that, one day, instead of bear hugs, they’ll give me a bag of dirty laundry. There will be no more slow snuggly mornings; there will only be frantic runs to the bus stop. The movies Mitchell quotes at me will be much less cute and wholesome. Rosie will no longer have conversations filled with jibberish with me: I’ll be lucky to have conversations with her at all. 

So, today, I’m going to linger in bed as long as I can, a baby on each arm, and I’m going to tell myself to remember this. I’m going to reenact five different movies in under two minutes with Mitchell, and when he laughs, I’m going to tell myself to remember this. When I walk in on Mitchell reading a book to Rosie, I’m going to scream to myself, remember this. The kids giggling in the swings: remember. Justin and Mitchell constructing elaborate train tracks: remember. Showing Mitchell YouTube videos to answer his constant question of “what does [insert animal here] eat?” Remember. He sure won’t remember I have all the answers in a few years. 

I’m going to remember this. And, if I don’t, I’m going to have plenty of pictures to remind me. 

By themagnificentms

The park 

We have a great park here that’s filled with natural playscapes. The kids love it, and we finally got the chance to take Justin there. He doubted how awesome it was, but 3.5 hours of playing later, he was convinced. 

By themagnificentms

Randoms with the kids

Fall is here! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for cute kids. 

Covey continues to grow, Mitchell continues to add to his vocabulary and phrase book, and Rosie continues to find new ways to climb things. So, all in all, we’ve been great, but just a smidge busy! 

I took the weekend off those weekend and rearranged the basement, hopefully better streamlining my shirts process so I can cut down on the amount of time we spend down there. Lately, we come upstairs just to run to the post office and sleep. And play outside a bit 🙂

By themagnificentms