Every day I subconsciously do things so that I will remember. Remember to RSVP to a baby shower, to buy vegetable broth, to give the baby vitamin D. Remember to sit up straight, pay the trash company. Remember to teach tolerance and kindness to the babies, so unaware of a thing called ‘hate’. Remember not to say shit anymore.
Remember the way the girls looked when they woke up, like full moons with creased cheeks and feathery eyelashes. I want to remember how they fit in a dress before they outgrew it, remember the way their breath smelled when all they drank was milk. Remember how they sounded running around the house, their steps like heartbeats on the floor. I want to remember how Sprout said vitamin “bite-a-min”, other “udder” and called dogs “Golly-Gols” for reasons unknown. I am so desperate to remember the way they loved to lay next to each other and how they wanted to be touching me all the time.
I want to remember how this house, our first, felt like a bounce house at a birthday party when it was full. Everyone happy, everyone trying not to step on each other. How there was a nick in the wall from car keys someone threw once, how all this inanimate wood and cement and drywall felt like part of our family.
Sometimes I think I’m trying so hard to remember all of this because I worry that it’s all downhill from here. That I have to memorize my daughter’s chipmunky trill saying “Merry Christmas Mommy” so that if she says she hates me in high school I won’t be reduced to dust.
In the car today I told Sprout, as we passed some overtly obvious Christmas light display-palm trees as tall as telephone poles dressed as candy canes -when she claimed she couldn’t see them, “Just look out your window. You’ll see what you need to see.” Which was also code for: we can’t stop. But I think it was tied to what I needed to remind myself too: In the end, you remember what matters.
There are four days left in this year and all the sweating and cajoling I did trying to bring one of my daughters here (or simply trying to get both of them into the car) is starting to feel less like a messy calamity and more like a beautiful adventure. It all is.
Cheers to another year!
The best memories are always right in front of us.
I know I should be sleeping. Every action of the morning points to that (I’ll get to that later), but there are all these words jumbled up inside of me like a literary traffic jam and they’re keeping me awake.
I’ve thrown around the idea of writer’s block lately, but I don’t think that’s the real problem. I have plenty to say, it’s just what of all of that is important? Appropriate? Mine? What should remain on the internet and what should live and die quietly in my head?
Having two tiny girls gives me plenty of material, but much of that is part of their story and will be their’s to share (or not). And yet, everything that happens to them happens to me too and so I get stuck trying to figure out how to express it all.
I’ll start here.
Scott’s Papa (grandfather) almost died this week. In predictable fashion, our potential last interaction involved me blubbering over FaceTime as he sat in his hospital bed awaiting surgery, saying nothing more than “You look good”, even though he didn’t, and “I love you” even though what I meant was:
I love that you’ve let me know you. I love how you’ve shown my husband how to be a good man and father; how to accept mistakes and keep your head up. I love how much fire and passion you still bring to this weary world, even from the reclined position of your easy chair. I’ll always remember your dapper white hair, your spark, your deep cough, your honest smile. Thank you for loving me too.
He had two stents put in his carotid artery after a stroke Monday, but came out smiling and ready to live his 9th or 90th life.
I think of my friends who have lost fathers and mothers recently. I think of their strength and how bawling like a baby at your baby’s swimming class seems so weak in comparison, but then I think about what Dave used to say, that “Sad is sad”, and I let myself feel it all anyways.
Here’s what opened the flood gates today. Wait for it…
I almost ran over a lady. Twelve sleeps ‘til Christmas and I almost canceled someone out; drew a great big line through their name right before they were about to attend a bunch of parties serving ham. It’s really not funny.
I always intend to be on time to activities, I do, but the universe always works against me. Today the obstacle came in the form of baby barf on the just made bed and a certain toddler needing to sweep dirt off the driveway with her bare hands.
When we finally left, I crossed the busy highway cautiously once the traffic breathed, but so did a lady on the opposite side. As I turned my car to go northbound, she came into view (illegally jaywalking) and I had to slam on my breaks. I mouthed “oh my god!” and “I’m sorry!” just as she screamed “F*ck you!” and threw a venti coffee all over my driver’s side window.
Sprout was scared, but instead cried “Stop it Mommy!” over and over. I turned back to her and said something like “I’m so sorry. That was scary! Mommy’s just trying her best!” She didn’t seem impressed. I can picture ‘She tried not to kill anyone’ etched on my tombstone and how no one else would be impressed either.
I made all the messy gingerbread houses. I strung the popcorn and the cranberries. I checked out the holiday books promptly from the library. I made arrangements at the soup kitchen….I almost killed a grinchy lady two weeks before Christmas. I know there’s a lesson here, but I’m too tired to see it.
At swimming class I broke down to the mom next to me. So far we’ve mostly talked about potty training and our kids losing their goggles and yet, here she was suddenly hugging my tears into her shoulder. Here she was humble enough to tell me she’s been there too. Here she was offering to take me for a cup of coffee.
A writer named Kate Baer says something like:
Women helping women. Moms helping moms.
I will cry about that until the day I die.
Thankfully, I don’t have to add to the list: Tired moms running over crazy women.
Scott’s working late. I thought I’d be in bed, reading, watching random videos on instagram with the sound on (he hates that) and pretending I don’t snore. But I’m here now, writing. It just happened.
The internet has been driving me crazy lately. Driving me away. In some ways, the whole world has. Matt Lauer? What’s next? Priests….oh wait.
I don’t want to go down that thought path though. It’s the holidays and I don’t want to think about the hard stuff, no one does, but maybe we end up thinking about it anyways? Maybe in some masochistic way that’s something we like about them. We rely on that girl from church who barely makes eye contact during The Sign of Peace to approach the microphone and belt out Silent Night so we can have the space to cry about our friend’s dad, taken too soon, too imperfectly and the fact that our two year old’s voice can only sound this way for so long. This, of all of the seasons, in the one where we allow ourselves to feel the most.
My in-laws have about a million snow globes and I thought, when I saw some of them stashed precariously in the garage rafters on Thanksgiving, how the snow globe is such a good symbol for this season. Aren’t we all looking to be a little bit confined and a little shook up at the same time?
It’s time to introduce Sprout to the idea of Santa and, therefore, Jesus. Like any good Catholic I am terrified. All of it seems too much. All of what I know is too little.
I haven’t been to church in a year. I went from casually talking to God every day to muttering his name in vein under my breath when I drop my car keys. Somehow I’m still mad Maddie got cancer even though she just passed another blood test. Just like they warn you when you’re little, believing is hard.
I picture this scene from my life cut and copied fresh from the Look Who’s Talking intro where I’m making my way National-Geographically through the birth canal into the world. I’m some combination of flesh and eyes and yuck. But what’s important about this abstract scene is that I somehow know that I was somewhere else first. I can feel the love and slight dread from the thing that let me go; of the someone who knew how broken the world I was heading to was and sent me anyways.
This is where my faith lies now, in some metaphorically mucky hallucination, but now that I’m a parent I’m starting to think I might be the best equipped I’ve ever been to understand and share The Christmas Story.
The other day I was sitting out in the surf, waiting for my wave. The one I knew was out there for me because I had just had a baby and barely had time to shave, let alone surf. Surely life knew this and set aside a perfect wave just for me. But instead I got dropped in on by some soggy haired hipster surfing with his hands hanging down. He cutback right in my face and I thought surely he would see the last three months of sleeplessness in my eyes and realize that the wave wasn’t meant for him. He sped ahead and then cutback again almost hitting me, then kicked out when the wave was over like he thought maybe someone on the beach was filming him for a movie called “Skinny Asshole”. I just called out “Thanks!” over the rush of water and wind and then reminded myself what I learned when Sprout was born about how God’s actual gift to us is this: a life that helps us feel uniquely broken enough to become strong. To fight hard for our own waves and then, because we are so familiar with the battle, to be compassionate enough to give them up for someone else too.
My friend Kirk has the oldest cracked wetsuit and the flakiest cracked skin. He’s surfed Waimea Bay at 20 feet. He’s surfed Pipeline with just his dad. He’s paddled out to put his father’s ashes right in the reef where we surf. He always gives me the good waves.
Thursday, October 26th, 2017
I am truly providing birth control for our neighborhood. I took both kids screaming to the car for what felt like the 20th time in Skip’s (almost) two months. Sprout wanted me to simultaneously hold and not hold her and Skip was upset she had to be removed from her perfectly peaceful state in the Solly Baby Wrap. I wasn’t trilled about it either. Any of it.
When we got home and I was putting Sprout, who indeed had an ear infection in her left ear like I suspected she did at 3 a.m., down for her nap, she sat up just before I left and smirked at me from her loft. “You’re so funny Mommy!” so of course I had to come here to record it. She thinks I’m funny. That’s something. I’m not sure how funny Scott thinks I am today though.
Earlier this morning my friend Stephanie texted our college roommate group-text this advice:
1.) Don’t be an ass to your husband.
2.) When driving in costume, make sure you have a full tank of gas.
I could have used this advice yesterday. Last night I shouted “God Dammit!” into the dark and told Scott that if he woke up in the morning and took a loud shower in the bright lights that I would die. I felt like I had been up every hour with one of the kids and my mind was going crazy not finishing any of those dreams. Although, in my rosiest of moods, I would say I was being woken up to my real dream and that would, of course, be exactly true.
Later in the day I asked Scott if I could get a cleaning service to come and rid the house of spit up and other hazardous waste before our Halloween party on Saturday and he said “Only because you were so nice last night.” You’re so funny Scott (and so entirely what we all need).
After I got out from a surf this evening I dried off, watched the sun dip like a cookie into the milky blue ocean and I thought: I made it.
Thursday, November 2nd, 2o17
Being present is the biggest challenge and goal for everyone right? But sometimes I feel like it isn’t always our phones or work emails that keep us from the here and now, but that if you actually let yourself fully feel some of the moments right in front of you that your heart would just bust wide open and ache so helplessly that you’d maybe have to lie down for a while.
Tonight I went up to Sprout’s loft bed to “snug” her before bed. We covered a variety of subjects from Halloween being over to her latest booboo and ear infection being all better. She asked if her friend Arlo was sick and I said no, that he was gone at a wedding. That his Poppy was getting married. She said “Auntie Maddie loves Andy too” because their recent engagement and wedding have been something we talk about so much it’s almost as if the excitement could erase the pain plague that hit when she had cancer.
“I get married someday too”
“Who are you going to marry?”
And she said, as if I should’ve known, “You!” I felt like the Grinch with my heart growing too big and breaking apart my Grinchy-ass body and every boundary ever set for it. That kid is good; in all the ways I knew she’d be and so many more that I never knew anyone could be.
Friday, November 3rd, 2017
I had the babysitter this morning for two hours. I handed her Skip around 7 a.m. and when Sprout came into my room fifteen minutes later she climbed into my bed and I requested she “snug” me. Her breath smelled so good, I wanted to lick her face like a dog and kiss her hair forever, but then she wanted someone who would get up and make breakfast so I sent her off to have some oatmeal with the sitter and to also, please, close the door behind her. I put a pillow over my head and passed out for an hour and a half. It felt like skipping first period. This is what I’m better at the second time around: asking for help.
Saturday, November 4th, 2017
My surf today served multiple purposes, which is important seeing as I’m more about multitasking than ever. For one, it was a shower and for another it was like going to church and cleansing my soul.
There were shiny, scattered shells; big, quiet skies. It felt like the entire northern hemisphere was becoming a little shop pulling in its shutters earlier and earlier so that if you’re out in the elements you get to feel like one of the only ones who knows the feeling of them, like you’re in on this secret with nature. I never surf as long as used to though. I miss my babies too much.
Monday, November 6th, 2017
Today at Trader Joe’s a guy restocking the sauerkraut saw Skip asleep in the baby wrap on my chest and said “That guy is knocked out!” Thinking about this makes me laugh. Mostly because I picture telling her the story one day and laughing all over again while she rolls her eyes at me.
Wednesday, November 8th, 2017
I use every opportunity I can to say that I have two children; to say their names and ages and recent illnesses. It’s like it makes them more real for some reason. Some part of my old self is bored by this person, but the rest of me does not care; the rest of me always wanted to be exactly this.
“Two and two months.”
“An ear infection and a recent need to fall asleep with some lights on”.
“A tongue and lip tie procedure and wanting to be held all the time.”
I’ve never been so proud.
I called my senator yesterday to talk about gun sense laws. I got sweaty and teary and so scared of what I was doing that I almost hung up, but then I felt all this clarity to see it through. Like when you jump in a lake or ocean and it’s so shockingly cold that your first thought is how to get out, but then all the sediment around you settles and your heart rate slows and you know you were glad you made the leap.
The ringing finally went to voicemail and I took a deep breath to prepare my message, but then a robot told me the it was full and I felt like a balloon that had just been popped. But I’ll keep calling. I’ve never had so much to lose before. I’ve never had so much to live for.