Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Short Reflection on a Short Year

I'm sitting up (hooray for at least sitting up) in bed, propped up by pillows, laptop glowing in my face, sleeping baby cradling my hip and breathing rhythmically in and out. I can't remember the last time in my life I was so sick. I am on day five of fever, chills, aches, coughs, and surely death's door - the whole nine yards. What a wonderfully ruined Christmas vacation. This is the kind of sick that isolates you to bed upstairs while you get to listen to the family open their stockings and eat their Christmas dinner downstairs. Yes, next year I will be getting that flu shot.

I am alone on New Year's Eve with just my girl, while the guys have gone to a germ-free friend's celebration. What a wonderfully ruined New Year's Eve. But in the stillness of this house, and having read my book, caught up on my People, and watched the entire season one of Downton Abbey, I'm suddenly struck with the realization that I have no other obligation than to reflect on this year.

We are a blessed family of FIVE.

We survived the Great House Remodel. And I even managed not to maul any of the contractors who spent my entire maternity leave in the house with me.

We are fighting the vicious beast that is ADHD and though it's an exhausting daily battle for all of us, I believe we mark a W on more days than not.

We have cultivated new meaningful friendships in the arms of a community.

We got to introduce our sacred beach and annual family tradition to the newest member.

We celebrated 10 years of marriage. We are high school sweethearts who have grown into teammates.

We have contributed time, talent and treasure to local causes that can benefit from what we have to offer.

We are given a daily gift of watching our boys love our girl, and vice versa.

They say the days are long but the years are short and it feels no more true than at this time of year. How do I have an 8-month-old baby? How am I possibly going to remember all the little moments of this precious, fleeting time that I find myself begging my brain constantly to imprint? It's the catch-22 of a full life: it will not last. So here's to hoping 2014 brings more big and little moments that make me catch my breath and hit the pillow hard at night with the knowledge that I did my best to earn it every day. That I worked hard and played hard and prioritized appropriately. And that one year from right now, I will be cursing time, begging it to slow down while also recognizing that my begging means it was again a year full of so much to be thankful for.

Cheers to you and yours and happy new year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

When Girl-Power Marketing Accidentally Does the Opposite

I have long believed I am a psychologist or sociologist trapped in a PR gal's body. Or perhaps it's just that I was drawn to a career in marketing comms because I am so fascinated by how marketing can make people believe and even do things they may not have believed or done otherwise. Behavioral psychology. And maybe that's also why since college I have had a thing about gender-based targeting.

Check out my latest post at ModernMom.com, where I (probably not very popularly) discuss what I see as an big miss (though in fairness I think it was inadvertent) by a toy brand trying to debunk the myth that only boys should like engineering. I just don't like the approach this particular brand *coughGoldieBloxcough* took.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me about it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

To My Daughter

I open my blurry eyes in the morning and see you there. I am amazed you are still here each day. That you are really part of our family.


I pinch myself regularly. Thankfully, I am not waking up from this dream.

Your story started almost a year ago, when your dad, brothers and I were in the car on our way to the airport, headed to the family beach house and I made us stop at Walgreens on the drive north so I could purchase a pregnancy test. I got sick in the plastic Walgreens sack. Your dad and I exchanged looks. I took the test in the airport bathroom and gave him the news in the terminal. You were already with us. This was happening. We managed to keep the news of you secret between just the two of us for several months even while we lived with Mimi as our house was remodeled. We didn’t know when we had created the blueprints with our architect several months beforehand that we were adding space for you.

I have waited months to write these words because I am so desperate to make them count; to live up to the standards you’ve set. Perfection. It’s an impossible goal so I move forward anyway, expecting missteps but doing my best. Just like in mothering.

In my belly you made me crave anything tomato-y. Salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce. And anything involving a mix of peanut butter and chocolate. I was sure you would have peanut butter colored hair based on the amount I consumed.

I find myself reminiscing about you growing and stretching inside me, kicking and hiccupping. This is not my first rodeo. I know I will forget how that felt and I already grieve for these memories that are so fleeting in the course of motherhood. This is the story of you, now. The snuggly baby ball of you that is just stopping by on her path of growth. I plead with time to stand still, while simultaneously looking forward to the next phase of you being unveiled.

You arrived in late spring and when we left the hospital with you, there was a May snowstorm. Welcome to Life, a place where we shrug our shoulders and try to go with the flow. In the 11 weeks that have followed, you’ve done just that. You eat and sleep like a dream and your yelling, screaming brothers don’t even faze you. I believe you got used to them in utero. And based on the chaos you heard, you figured out that you would need to be flexible. Thank you.

You love to be outside. You seem lulled into a peaceful state by nature sounds and smells around you. I hope a yearning to be outside stays with you forever. You gaze up at me from your seat in the stroller as we walk and I gaze back, overwhelmed with all the life advice I want to impart. Be a helper. Stand up for what’s right. Extend your hand to the outcast. Identify your gifts, then cultivate and share them. Stay off of reality shows and out of tattoo parlors. Respect yourself and treat your body as a gift on loan from your Creator. Keep the faith. The list is endless. What will you learn from my words and what from just living, experiencing, observing? I feel anxious pressure to set the best example.

 
I know there will come a time(s) that you’ll become so annoyed with me and that’s okay. (I’m sure your grandmother secretly looks forward to those full-circle moments.) I’ll try to be patient, give space and wait for you to come around. I also hope there will be times you are proud to be this woman’s daughter. I will tell you about the day you accompanied me to the office, just a few weeks into your life, as I was promoted to Partner. I want you to learn from me how to work hard in pursuit of a rewarding passion. Not how to fall back on your laurels or be enabled. At the same time, you inspire me to cut back, reexamine priorities and seek treatment for my sometimes workaholism. You are my treatment. I know you will remind me over the next many years, when I want to be reminded and when I don’t, to stop and exhale.

I need to tell you about your brothers. You wouldn’t believe how in love with you they are. Even Graham, who upon learning that you would be a sister cried real tears. “But she’s going to be bossy!” he lamented through sobs. I know we’ll recount that story time and again with a giggle, but oh that boy. I believe he thought you would come out as a fellow first-grader who stole his toys and liked to tell him what to do, which (word to the wise) apparently he does not appreciate. But the first night you were home with us from the hospital, he held you in his 7-year-old arms and proclaimed, “I guess I wanted a girl the whole time.” He is protective and proud. As you get to know him and come to appreciate his quirks, you will be a better, more empathetic person for knowing and loving him in all his uniqueness.

Everyone says you look just like Reid. He loves that. He is gentle and understated and timid around you. But really, it’s not just your effect on him. You will learn from him how to be a sweetheart, a listener, a pleaser. At night he asks if you will snug with him in his bed while I read to him. I ask him if he will read to you one day and he looks up with me with a nod and a smile. That’s so Reidy. Remember that when Graham’s extremes push you too far, Reid will be your soft place to land.

These boys have taught me how to mother to this point. I hope you’ll find they’ve done a good job with me and consider yourself a lucky addition to their team.

I hope you also find luck in being your daddy’s daughter. One day when you are older I will tell you about my complicated relationship with my own dad, but more importantly what I learned from it. Part of that education was what I wanted in a father to my children. You will now benefit from that hard-learned lesson. Your daddy is the man by which any of your future suitors should be measured and often fall short until one day, someone doesn’t. When that happens, and not beforehand, you’ll know. In other words, never, never settle or compromise your expectations in this arena. Never. Ever.

While I’m still early in this motherhood journey, I know enough to know that while daydreams of the Future You are inevitable, we really have just met and you haven’t shared much about yourself yet. In seven years of parenting, I have learned the most important lesson: that you are not a mini version of your parents, or who we think you are or want you to be, but you, Blair, yourself. And as you let us get to know you more with each passing year, I hope you’ll find that you have no louder cheerleaders anywhere in the world than the four who will always be here in the Hawks Nest – your nest – where we have enthusiastically made room for you. You, my daughter.

Welcome to the world.
Love,

Mom


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breathe in, breathe out

Progress happens one day at a time. Kinda like growing a human being inside your body.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Now

I look down at my ring and scratch some dirt off the diamond with my thumbnail. Things are cloudy, just like its surface. Just like the air around me, spitting snow. Snow that annoyingly invades my space when I roll the window down to tell the Starbucks drive-thru speaker which caffeinated escape I need today. I roll it back up before a crackly voice responds. Doesn’t she know it’s snowing out here? Faster, faster. Move faster. Away from this morning and towards whatever comes next.

I am a year older today than I was yesterday.

Nothing makes any more sense today than it did then.

The boys gave me a card with a perforated crown. I painstakingly poked it out of its cardstock home and put it on my head, feeling uncomfortable with a fake grin. The smallest things feel the biggest. Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Move faster. Towards the next thing. Something else.

They were almost as excited about my birthday as they would be about their own. But the problems of mundane daily life, getting through one step at a time, those don’t disappear just because it’s someone’s birthday. Their excitement makes up for my lack of. I’m grateful for it.

My computer dings the alert of an incoming email. “Help,” it says. I chew my lip too hard and it’s bleeding. Angry red pulses just below a thin surface and with a little more pressure, release.

Something’s gotta give.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Broken Boy

Watching him struggle with a pencil in one hand and a piece of paper in front of him, I am a mess of emotions. I want to shake him. I want to scream at him. I want to rip up the paper and tell him it’s okay and I know he’ll figure it out in his own way eventually so who cares about these stupid spelling words. I want to cry.

It takes him over an hour to write four sentences. There are seven more.

I look at the faint blue and pink lines on the thin paper. I hate those lines. The sky, clothesline and ground.  The letters are supposed to fit nicely between them. Letters that you can’t form when ADHD wins. So often, it wins.

My son struggles with barriers in his brain that I can’t comprehend because they don’t exist in mine. And they make me angry at him. And then reminding myself it’s not his fault they are there, I get angry at myself for my misguided frustrations. I love my son. I hate his ADHD.

It’s bedtime. I tell him he must stop now and turn in unfinished work. And he cries, anticipating his teacher’s disappointment, whom he adores in spite of the fact that he is not the prized student. The boy cries because he didn’t finish his sentences, but yet, he can’t (?) won’t (?) finish.

Will he ever? He is smart, so smart. He asks the right questions and comprehends, inquires, analyzes, problem solves. But follow a simple direction? Write some words on a piece of paper? He stares at it. He asks about noises, and erasers and why is this pencil so sharp and Mrs. Bundy has paper like this, and my Stompeez are slippery and what is Reid doing and, and, and…

I email his teacher with the heads up. I search for solutions beyond medication. New strategies. Tweaks. Options. Diet changes. The medication is on only during the day. It’s off at homework time. Our time with him is off time. And oh how it throws everything off. But still I have a love/hate relationship with the little blue pill he takes each morning. It helps and even he knows it. But he is so little. What about the long-term? Is enough really known? What if?

I try to keep my focus on ways I can help my son. I try to separate ADHD from my relationship with him. I try to silence the white noise of society’s judgment. His parents should be stricter disciplinarians. My child would never. Such behavior problems. Too much TV. Or, those who think ADHD is a cop-out label. Every other kid “has” it, right? The squirrely kid? The kid who doesn’t want to follow directions? The kid in her own world? Oh, of course, it’s ADHD! Someone once asked how we had Graham “diagnosed.” In quotation marks like it was made up. A mask. Are that many pediatricians throwing meds at first graders these days that this real misery has become synonymous with some imaginary state?

ADHD is very real here. And it is horrible. And it will never leave my son alone. Just like him, dancing around that lined piece of paper, it will never finish.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Getting There

Slowly but (painfully) surely, we are getting there. We will one day move back into our home. We will get out of my mother's hair and take our shoes to a place where her puppy can't chew on them. We will have our own space again. It will happen. Right? Right. Looking at pictures like these remind me of that.



Starting work on second floor facade framing... notice there is no more front balcony eye sore/safety hazard!


And a few days (weeks?) later, a tarp, which may or may not be covering up the fact that nothing else has been done, but I'll give the benefit of the doubt since there are new windows in...

 

And the back. A big, beautiful window overlooking the backyard in what is now officially the baby's room.


Add some pretty windows in the master and things look less hollow and more homey... almost...