Things We Don’t Talk About

It was a Thursday morning, a little over a month ago; I woke up in a bad mood.

It was probably a combination of several days’ poor sleep catching up with me, and possibly a little PMS in there. But I was irritable and no longer even tapping into my patience reserves, which had long since been used up.

When I got into the shower and saw that the razor was not in its usual cradle, I snapped.

(Yes. John and I share a razor. We also share toothpaste, deodorant, and for the last month, stupidly, a hair product that he has decided he likes and also needs. This post isn’t about providing solutions to our mostly common roommate issues; the bathroom situation is what it is and merely provides a background to the story. In short, please refrain from mentioning that separate razors might solve our marital issues.)

It’s stupid. Really. Something like this happens maybe once a month. Something we take for granted, like returning an object back to where it goes, suddenly becomes the impetus for blind rage.

I was really angry about that razor.

And that kind of anger, for me, burns in a way that I cannot stew on and let out later. I’m not wired that way. I try to hold grudges, and I’m the only one who suffers before I forget why I’m mad. Except, when I’m that angry, my kids also suffer, which isn’t fair. It’s not fair to John either, but somehow I feel justified in his size and maturity, that he can handle it, and it is better to take it out on him than eat an innocent child alive, for something as forgivable as throwing matchbox cars down the stairs into the back of his sister’s unknowing head. (This might have also contributed to my difficult day.)

I’ve mentioned before the way I used to call John on his way to work, when I wake up like this, fuming and cursing and spitting and sometimes crying over things like toothpaste and razors. When he stopped answering his phone before 10am (expecting wrath), I switched to angry G-chat messages that would be waiting for him on his desktop the minute he sat down to work. What a way to start the day.

It is 2016. You know I am finally up to date on my tech habits. G-chat has given way to angry texting. Because if there’s anything that soothes my anger as immediately as a shot of whiskey, it is typing curse words into small handheld devices, announcing my bad mood to the one human who probably needs to hear it the least.

I’m not proud of this. (Hence the title of my post.) And every time I do it, a little Jiminy Cricket inside me reminds me that this isn’t edifying. This isn’t blessing. This is straight up crazy-bitch behavior and if anyone at church or in the neighborhood was truly aware of it, we might receive fewer invites to BBQ’s and more invites for prayer.

Yet. Somehow the devil inside me always wins.

The text went a little something like this: “Would it kill you to put the stupid razor back in the shower, even one time?” (Add some creative cursing in there, because I don’t sensor myself with John and I keep all my -ing’s intact.)

Wife of the year here.

A reply came when I arrived at the gym, not from John, but from a friend whose name also begins with a “J” – to whom the text was inadvertently sent.

She wrote: “Hahahaa. Yes. Yes it would,” followed by a series of kiss blowing emojis.

I laughed.

Then I cried. Like two forgotten faucets, right there in the parking lot of the Jerry Long YMCA, tears, streaming.

Not tears of embarrassment or even deep seeded shame, which I should have had.

Tears of relief.

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John and I are a good team. We are maybe even a rare form of outstanding, when it comes to this game of doing life together. Much of this is due to the fact that no one else on the planet could stand to be with either of us for so long, so by default, we have to stick together. But, truly, we work a lot harder than it looks like we do, to make us work.

I was extended a big fat arm of grace that Thursday, and I wish I could say it catapulted us into a really great weekend full of family time and love, complete with appreciation for each other and physical displays of affection, and a rare bit of extra patience for our children.

It’s just not true.

Though we both laughed pretty hard, together, about the text mix-up, the days following were by no means good.

And I frequently wonder how many people would be surprised by this.

This marriage thing? This long-term living-together-relationship thing? It’s work.

It’s a lot of work. It is ever-evolving, and even when we plateau to complacency, it doesn’t always last long. We struggle a lot more often than we let on. And when we are struggling, we say mean and hateful things. And we yell at each other (me more than John). And sometimes we fight in front of our kids. And sometimes we unfairly fight with our kids.

But here’s what we don’t do. We don’t stop fighting because we are too tired. We don’t get passive aggressive or sullen, and punish each other silently. We fight until we get it out. And we don’t stop admitting to each other when we are wrong. And we apologize a lot. We’ve been known to have one or more “restarts” to a day or a weekend.

I’m not saying we’re the poster children for marital bliss.

I feel like I got a restart that Thursday and I missed a great opportunity. At the peak of a stressful week, I let a little thing get the better of me, and I lost a stupid battle with a petty problem. Because I’m human. And I’m weak.

I’m just glad I have another human who chooses to love me despite this weakness.

So John gets home today, from a weeklong Canada fishing trip he’s been on with my father. This same trip two years ago was easily the worst week of my summer. This time was much different. It has been a great week of connecting with my kids, relying on Eliott and Carter for a little more help and patience, and purposefully scheduling a lot more playtime. It was a completely different dynamic and a totally different balance, and I didn’t just survive. I enjoyed it.

Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be more ready for John to come home. But the break was healthy.

 

 

Happy Memorial Day

I opened my computer this morning after a weekend of mostly avoiding the Internet, to the usual flood of semi-bad news. A dear friend from High School is in the throws of a cancer battle with her 3 year old daughter. She is, like me, a stay at home mom of four kids, all under the age of 10. My alma mater, that Baptist beacon that has been celebrated in recent news for finally fielding a winning football team and cranking out the beloved Chip and Jo-Jo, is all over the national news for potentially sweeping sexual violence under the proverbial Big 12 rug. Ironically, Trump and Hilary didn’t cross my newsfeed this morning, but I know they are still there, looming in the political horizon I refuse to gaze at anymore.

Meanwhile, Eliott was in my room first thing discussing the EOG review packet that is “huge” and “due Thursday.” Then, we hear Avery calling from the first floor. Her sing-song “Mom-my! Mom-my!” floated up the stairs and I asked John if she was still stuck in the high chair. He said he had let her out a while ago and I assumed she wanted me to see something she had destroyed. Eliott went downstairs to investigate, and took almost five minutes trying to find her. The toddler had shut herself in the small downstairs bathroom and the light was off. She wasn’t crying or panicking, just calling me patiently, waiting for the door to open.

We’ve discussed our plans for the day (as I lay in bed at 10:35, still in my PJ’s, nursing a lukewarm cup of coffee) and it has come down to the choice between cleaning out a barely used basement room, or taking the chainsaw to some unsightly bushes growing around our mailbox.

My life is rough.

This is a fact which is not lost on me, as I seek to teach my children the art of gratitude and contentment. Every night this weekend ended up on the porch of one neighbor or another, where in the light haze of these early summer evenings, the usual banter of back-and-forth picking on each other was comfortable and familiar.

I am thankful for friends and neighbors who can laugh at themselves, and who keep us humble.

Friday was the last day of preschool, and I got a little teary-eyed, hugging the women who have been twelve hours of love for my babies each week, all year. I am thankful that when the ages and stages of four children feels constantly out of balance, there is one hallway on this Earth that looks and smells like comfort, consistency, and unconditional love.

I see the American flags and I’ve read the sentimental Memorial Day posts this weekend, thanking those who have served and died to give us our freedom. And I’m thankful for that too.

My little sphere of existence is currently turning a million miles an hour, but it is still very little, and arguably, pretty mundane. Today I am sincerely comforted and comfortable in the boringness of my life. I wish I had the ability to channel this sense of calm in the midst of the upsets that are inevitable coming one day. I wish I had the ability to give it to those who need it right now.

The most exciting plan for my day includes trying out the new dehydrator my mom impulsively sent me last week, and I’m not being facetious with my use of “exciting” as I debate which fruit I’m going to try first.

There’s some porch-fodder for the neighbors.

It’s Mother’s Day

It is Mother’s Day.

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The sun is shining, the pool just opened, my father-in-law and former college roommate celebrated birthdays yesterday, and I haven’t written a blog post since a few days after the New Year.

For the first time in my life, we filed for a tax extension. This might be the first time in over a decade that we will actually owe money. (I feel like my father.)

But another winter has come and gone, another tax season lingers like a small but persistent rash, and we who live in the suburbs are doing that thing we do in the spring, which is rush to get everything done so that we can lounge and play and drink through the summer, enjoying the fruits of our neighbor’s labor.

My garden is getting there, and for the first time in our marriage, John isn’t annoyed about it. (I knew I’d wear him down.) I found a lady (sweet Saundra Martin Jacobs who you must go visit if you live in the Triad) who propagates all sorts of plants, and bought some blueberries and raspberries from her the other day. I started small, because I’ve been known to kill aloe. But I have high hopes and John was genuinely excited about the prospect of berries.

We’re winding down to the end of school, which means, now, that state testing is nearly upon us. What this really means is that my public school children are doing a lot of nothing these days in the classroom, and my sweet genius named Eliott is adding 2-3 books a day to her Goodreads list, because I called her teacher and banned her from all forms of technology until the end of the year. I do, in all honesty, look forward to summer, and the opportunity to let my kids rest their brains and move their bodies and maybe embrace some of the creativity that has gone into hiding in the last few weeks.

The countdown for preschool is officially under 20 days, and I have to will myself from tears every time I drop off and pick them up from the happiest place in my world.

Today, I am a bag of mixed blessings. I was woken up very early, but allowed to go back to sleep for nearly two hours, while my children rolled out the pink carpet (made entirely of dress-up clothes) and showered me with love in the form of homemade gifts. (John survived the chaos by drinking at least half of the mimosas before 9am, smart man.) I plan to wear this noodle necklace until it disintegrates.

Then I came home from church to find this on my phone:

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This is only the beginning of what became a long list of Mother’s Day love, from a few of the dear women with whom I am so lucky to share a little corner of Earth.

But I am also reminded today of the full measure of my blessings, as several friends are preparing for, or mourning, very recent losses. It seems this month has been full of news of ended relationships, sudden and severe sickness, and even death.

I often feel spoiled and naive and humbled by the fact that I’ve not yet experienced this depth of tragedy in my life. I have no advice for my friends who have just been cut in half and are watching this piece of themselves walk away. A piece that they took for granted would always be there. (A piece that I take for granted will always be there.) I have no advice and no empathy for those who have recently lost a loved one, or are celebrating their first mother’s day without their mom, or are burdened today by the fact that they have not yet had the chance to become a mom, or are watching and waiting and praying they one of the reasons for today’s celebration isn’t about to leave their lives forever.

Because I am spoiled. And I am lucky. And I am blessed.

And I know it isn’t wrong for me to be happy today, and to celebrate. But it sure seems to put into perspective the days that I complain, that I unload on John the difficulties of 3:30pm until dinner time.

Every year, Mother’s Day takes on a new facet of pride for me, and this year, while there are four obvious reasons to be proud, I am most proud to be part of this club of women who have learned how to take care of others. There are many women, today, who I celebrate. Of course, my own mom. My husband’s mom. My sisters who are young moms and my sisters-in-law who are about to be moms for the first time.

But even more than that, today, it is all the women who have mothered my children with me. Mothered me when my own mom was a state away. The ones who have stepped in with just the right word, or meal, or proposition for a walk at just the right time. The ones who are wearing their own struggles on their sleeves, like I do, and telling me my crap doesn’t look or smell any worse than everyone else’s crap.

These friends, sisters, mothers, and daughters, who rely on each other to do and be for the world what our husbands and boyfriends and fathers and brothers just can’t.

Because they are not women.

And even though many days are filled with the kind of elementary and preschool bickering that makes me want to come out of my skin, I do have moments of clarity, when I simply cannot wait for my own daughters to be in this club.

2016: Hooray!

It is the first Sunday of the New Year. You know what this means.

A clean calendar. A new planner. A renewed sense of energy for tackling my mundane stay-at-home-mom first world problem projects!

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I’m organizing.

I just like to organize, organizing’s my favorite.

But first, a little review.

Top Three for 2015:

The number one best part of this year has been my private celebration of the end of pregnancy and nursing. Even though we knew Avery was the final lego to come down my personal baby factory assembly line, I wasn’t sure how I would actually respond to closing this chapter of my life forever. Turns out, it came with an overwhelmingly positive sense of relief. John and I both agree that our friendship and connectedness has never been better, which I’m also happy to say has been an unintended byproduct of something neither of us was actively working on.

The second best part of 2015 didn’t technically begin this year, but certainly steadily rose on my gratitude scale, and that is living in our current neighborhood. I don’t really need to write it here to let the Rustinburg Rowdies know how much I love them, because I feel like it is said and implied by all of us every time we hang out (and possibly more frequently on group texts filled with bitmojis). I actually mentioned the current strength of my marriage in church this morning, and it was weird to admit it had very little to do with the current state of my spiritual life, but almost everything to do with our social life. And our social life is currently hinged on a rickedy little picket gate connecting my back yard to Rustinburg Road.

The third best part of 2015 has been our transition to public school. You can only imagine the kind of discussion that ensues between two highly nerdy former school teachers when it comes to the education of our spawn. Sending our firstborn to kindergarten was a decision that was not taken lightly. As it became increasingly obvious that our original decision was not working in the best interest of our children, it was pretty stressful. I’m not writing here to say that public school in Clemmons, North Carolina has been the academic experience of a lifetime and one that we have no complaints about. But I am saying this: I’m not sure our children have been socially healthier than they are right now, and for that, I’ll take a potentially inferior academic milieu.

2015 Regrets and Non-Accomplishments:

I only read 17 of my 20 book goal this year.

I still haven’t found a dentist I love.

I let a few friendships fall off my radar this year, a natural result of growing babies and changing neighborhoods and complicated schedules. I like that these are universal excuses and I feel confident that these friendships haven’t suffered even a bit for the lack of time and energy put into them this year.

Looking Forward to 2016:

Not necessarily looking forward to reading more books, but to continue in my pursuit of reading good books. My 1st grader is beginning to dabble in chapter books and I’m giddy at the thought of the increased literacy in my house.

Connecting and re-connecting with some of the better women in my life. It never hurts my feelings when a cup of coffee ends with more than just a physical sense of satisfaction.

Trite and materialistic as it is going to sound, I look forward to starting the year with a plan for home and family maintenance. Last year I resolved to spend less time doing laundry by choosing two days a week in which the chore had to be started and fully finished before going to bed.

I fully accomplished my goal.

This year I have created a similar plan to maximize my OCD need for order while minimizing the time I put into it. I look forward to less clutter in every sense of the word.

Christmas Perspective

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I’m with you, Carter.

I hate the holidays.

I don’t hate the holidays.

I sort of hate the holidays.

Does that make me un-American? Un-Christian? The Grinch?

Can I get real with you guys for a second here? There is a ton of shit to do.

But what’s worse is: WE CREATED ALL THAT SHIT.

There was a time when John and I were pretty Charlie Brown about our Christmas and it truly didn’t bother us. But with each newer bigger dwelling, and each newer bigger child, we have accumulated a little bit more.

Maybe I’ve just accumulated newer bigger expectations.

Obviously I didn’t get it when I was a kid. I really did believe my mother loved every minute of Christmas decorating. I assumed she skipped down the aisles of Walmart or Target or whatever, happily throwing things into the cart for us with no thought about price tags or maintaining equality between the four kids. (And this was before Amazon PRIME! How did she do it?! No, really. How?)

My dad did a lot too, and I know for a fact that he does enjoy his role. He puts up Christmas lights because he likes them. He makes Christmas cookies because he enjoys it. He dresses like Santa and barges into neighbors houses without knocking because he gets an honest-to-God kick out of the silliness and spirit of it all. And while I’m sure he was happy to pick up anything my mom needed from Radio Shack on Christmas Eve, it is only now that I realize my mother was mission control behind the entire operation. (Birthdays too, let’s just say it.)

And that is fine.

It is.

Because we are stay at home mothers, and house management is our biggest responsibility behind keeping kids alive.

But seriously?

There is a ton of shit to do.

It starts about the week before Halloween and doesn’t really end until Valentine’s Day. It is driven by Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. And it is further driven by social media – from “the Elves on the Shelves have returned!” to “Hiking for the perfect tree!” to “Such sweet moments, I swear she fell asleep like that and I just couldn’t wake her…”

And then it is even further driven from those taller-than-average corners insisting they are doing things differently, re-focusing their priorities, un-materializing, down-sizing, living in peace with completely humble children who experience (and voice) exactly zero desires, despite the inundation of material-holiday-noise hitting them daily. Kids who never complain about how they are the only kids who don’t have _________ in their entire class.

And I admit it. I compare myself. To all of it. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly.

And once in a while the comparisons get the better of me.

(Gasp.)

I know it has all been said, celebrated, liked, commented on, satirized, secretly whispered about in negative ways, and then publicly (and potentially distastefully) blasted on mom blogs all over the Internet.

I don’t want to join any bandwagons here. I just want to share my reality.

Reality number 1: I bought a “working” pre-lit Christmas tree off Craigslist one year for $20 and then spent the better part of a 4-day weekend cutting off all the lights that didn’t work. Because I wanted to get my money’s worth.

Reality number 2: I bought several tied garbage bags of “great condition” holiday wreaths from a friend of a friend last May and opened them for the first time on Monday morning. I spent more than an hour searching Google images and Pinterest, and studied no less than three of my neighbors houses as examples of exactly how to hang wreaths in the 8 front-facing windows of my house. What you see is a tidy display of modest holiday cheer. What you don’t see is the hour I spent attempting to tie bows out of red ribbon that all resembled one another, then, giving up (sweating and cursing) and taking wire clippers to ten different wreaths and declaring “no bows” to be more fashionable this year. (I further un-winded at 10:30am with a shot of whiskey and a hot glue gun and produced eight wreaths that now all appear to belong in the same family.)

Reality number 3: I carved the pumpkins from my porch and roasted the seeds this past Sunday while John got down our $20 tree and our one, 66-quart, latch box of Christmas decorations, which sat in the kids’ playroom, mostly untouched, until tonight, just before dinner.

Reality number 4: Every year I’ve added “just a small” string of lights to finish off the top, and every year I need another string of lights, because whatever we have from previous years somehow doesn’t make it all the way to the top of the tree two years in a row.

Reality number 5: Two entire sections of my 300-count string of LED lights doesn’t work, despite the box that says “If One Bulb Burns Out, the Others Stay Lit.”

Reality number 6: I put that string of lights on the tree, anyway.

Reality number 7: I laid out new Christmas PJ’s on each kid’s bed at 4:30 and told them we’d bathe before dinner and watch “Elf” while we ate.  At 6:30, no one was bathed, only half of my dinner was even edible, Elf did not make it onto the TV, and more than half the family was screaming, crying, and/or throwing things at the table, including me.

So all I’m saying is, I need to not lose perspective this holiday season when it seems like everyone else is doing better than me.

Nobody has their shit together.

I’m not the only one who will have at least one very emotional fight with my spouse about something incredibly stupid in the next 25 days. Like food. Or wrapping paper.

And while I’d love to sign off this post with some quip driving home the point that Jesus is the reason for the season, I’m content, for now at least, to just do the best I can with what I’ve got. And what I’ve got is a handful of kids under the age of 9 who know Santa is a lie but still believe the Tooth Fairy might be real.

Onward and upward.

Dadderday

A few weeks ago one of those Mommy Blog articles showed up in my Facebook newsfeed as a “suggested post” and it was all about Mommy Self Care. Curiosity got the best of me in that moment and I clicked, skimmed, and nodded my head. The author looked and sounded a little younger than me. In this blog, she went through the long list of ways her first two children ate her for lunch, physically, mentally, and emotionally. She also admitted the deep sense of guilt she lived with for several years for feeling tired, cranky, unloving, and not good enough. The blog concluded with her giving permission to her readers to be more selfish because it would be good for the entire family.

Sadly, the story was neither original, nor uncommon. Even sadder? I can’t relate.

Forgive me.

I was born with an above-average sense of selfishness. I didn’t even have Facebook when I was a new mom, and in the absence of comparative psychology, I basically made demands straight from the heart.

This is how “Dadderday” was born.

I first became a stay at home mom when Eliott was a little over 2 and Carter was 18 months. Before this, when we were both working, John and I had fought our way to the perfect balance of powers, domestic duties versus parenting duties.

It started with cooking dinner. It didn’t take me long to discover that “I cook and you clean up,” meant that John had very little to clean up at the end of a meal but if he cooked, I had every pot and pan that we owned sitting in the kitchen sink already hard and crusty.

Dinner duty became a one-week-on and one-week-off chore, where the person who cooks also cleans up, and the other person stays out of the kitchen completely. Eventually, this break for the week was traded for bath and bedtime duty with kids, which often made both of us look forward to cooking even more.

This worked well for several months, until a hormone inspired meltdown had me crying and cursing over g-chat, explaining how stressful it was to get to the grocery store and if I didn’t remember to take something out of the freezer NOBODY remembered to take something out of the freezer, and how hard is making a meal that someone else basically perfectly planned and laid out for you to cook!?

This lead to dinner duty including planning meals and grocery shopping for the week.

Truth be told, John loved it. He started experimenting with different dinner ideas. He even agreed that cleaning up as you go is actually a genius habit. Sometimes bath duty seemed like a break. Sometimes dinner duty seemed like the break. It was, weirdly, one of the better things to come out of my overly-selfish taker tendencies.

But then we moved to Winston-Salem and I stopped working. It no longer seemed fair to make John figure out how to get to the grocery store when I was basically home all day and had the time to think of things to prepare for dinner. Not only that, but it became clear within mere weeks that right about 4:30pm, Mama needs a drink and the solace of sautéing onions alone. Dinner duty became my permanent duty, and John was happy to come home before dinner and declare, “Mommy is off duty! Leave her alone!”

This all sounds very heartwarming, I realize, and I apologize that it is so out of character, but the truth is, there are a couple things we do pretty well and you might be surprised to see that it isn’t all as dysfunctional as it sometimes seems.

Here’s the part, however, where you might decide to hate me.

I’m going to speak from both sides of the motherhood coin because I have been both a working mom AND a stay at home mom. They both come with an equal number of difficulties and I’m not about to debate the merits of one choice over another. Both choices? Equally damn hard.

While I was working, I felt like I was missing too many minutes of my kids’ lives and resented the fact that the only time I got to spend with them was the one time of day that nobody feels like being cute or patient. I revolved my life around making the most of the few awake hours and sincerely attempting to tune-in to their super cute little-kid moments. As a stay at home mom, I basically revolve my entire life around maximizing my kid-breaks, tuning-out the super annoying little-kid moments, and getting them in bed as early as possible.

And while pre-school and nap time do afford me several hours of “me time” every week, John realized before me that it simply wasn’t enough. Thus, Dadderday.

While I am responsible for the name, John is almost entirely responsible for the concept and execution of Dadderday. It starts on Friday night, actually, with the reminder that I can stay up as late as I want because I get to sleep in the next morning. At the first crack of light, John is up with the kids, some cartoons, and his iPad, meandering around the kitchen cooking breakfast. For several years it was eggs and grits, and I’m telling you, no matter how hard I try, the kids hate it that I cannot “make it like Daddy makes it!” More recently it has come to include other special Saturday-only foods, like bacon or sausage, pancakes, or breakfast burritos.

Sometimes at 9:30, but more often closer to 10:30, one of the kids will poke their head in my door and discover that my eyes are open. A few minutes later, John comes in with a cup of coffee.

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(I’m spoiled. I continue to admit it.)

I pad downstairs in my PJ’s, eat a hot plate of breakfast that is waiting for me, and watch as my husband wrangles all the children into clothes and out the door.

They go to the gym. Every single Saturday. They go to the gym and then to Home Depot or sometimes Sam’s Club, and leave me all alone, to drink coffee and sit in my PJ’s all day, if I want.

And sometimes I do.

I’m not on the hook for anything on Saturday. No meals. No clean up. No discipline. In fact, if I want to sleep until 10:30 and then take a nap from 2-4, I get to do that.

It is exactly as blissful as it sounds, and since Avery was born, I’ve discovered (the hard way), exactly as life-giving as John knew it would be.

Avery was a slightly stupidly difficult baby. Her unpredictable eating and sleeping schedule, for at least 6 months, put my Dadderday on hold for a while. And then elementary school life, and soccer, picked up. In the last fourteen months, I have not had a traditional Dadderday except for a handful of times.

Hence, no blog posts since July.

Hence, we hired a housekeeper because I’m now using preschool time to blog.

Hence, I complain a lot about having four kids. Four kids that I wanted. Four kids that many people couldn’t have but would take in a heartbeat. Four kids who are not bad kids but often feel like they are because I’m never fully recharging my batteries.

This was not intended to be a self-pity post. It is merely a reflection on making the important things important. I’m not going to outline the ways in which I keep my husband happy when he keeps me happy, but I didn’t actually marry a super-hero. There is an obvious give and take and knowing each other’s needs is where we excel when things are good, and cut each other to the core when things are not good.

I would be honored and you, blessed, if you want to steal the concept of Dadderday. Understand that it may manifest itself completely differently. Obviously the goal is the same

 

Dear Avery

Dear Avery,

You are the fourth child. You are going to have to get used to being last, late, sometimes forgotten, and spoiled as a result of the guilt we subconsciously feel about this. We were really hoping you’d be another boy, so at least you can thank that sentiment for your brand new wardrobe up to the size of 4T.

You are now one year, one month, and twenty-three days old.

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I’m sorry I didn’t get this post written and published on your actual birthday. And while I’m apologizing, please do not expect your baby book to be finished before you get married.

Daddy and I are so proud and thankful that you did finally figure out how to sleep through the night. You’re going to hear this a lot in your life so you might as well hear it now. The rest of your siblings all figured this out by 6 weeks. You sure topped them all by holding out until 6 months. I hope this means you will forge your own path in life, no matter how difficult that makes the lives of those you are surrounded by. I’m going to view this as a positive characteristic for your adult-self.

Though you can only say exactly four words coherently (Mama, Dada, Uh-oh, and Ball), it seems that your baby babble contains the mysteries of the universe combined with the passion of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the fact that you come by this perfectly honestly and completely genetically, it is still going to drive me nuts and you are going to have your talking privileges revoked just moments after you master verbal communication. Talk to Eliott about this. She will empathize with you completely.

And while I’m on the subject of mysteries, I’d like to know, how is that you don’t like bananas? What child ever in the history of children has refused to eat the sweetest, softest, and most convenient baby food there is? I’m only going to forgive you for this because of your tendency to poop but one time a day at the exact same time every day. The predictability of your bowels has actually made my life a little easier, and at least half-way made up for all those late nights.

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No one ever suspected me to admit this, but I’m secretly grateful for your small size and slowness to graduate completely out of the baby phase. It turns out I am already sensing the sadness that comes with the realization that it all goes by too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve given me plenty of reasons to look forward to the future, but I am trying to hold on a little longer to this small version of you, before I forget how you smell and how easy it is to carry you on my hip.

So happy belated birthday to my little partner in birthday crime. Our family was not complete before you, and it is infinitely better because of you.