Last year’s Mother’s Day was a little silly. In some ways, these holidays in which we pause and share some extra love to a parent can be a little bit of a set-up. Maybe it is just me, but I imagine a day of laying in bed late (like 9AM-10AM late) followed by everyone getting along, no messes, no fuss, and lots of indulgences. And while much of this could in theory happen you cannot take the Mother out of Mother’s day. And there is the set-up. I love my kiddos and husband with every ounce of my being but no day will ever go by without a little fiasco on the spectrum of silly, family drama. When you have a 2 year old and a 3 year old, it is inevitable and the more you can embrace it, the more likely you will laugh when it unravels. Ironically, this year’s Mother’s Day came pretty close to perfection and awesome-sauce. David made my favorite Dutch pancakes with homemade whipped cream, we enjoyed a stroll through Cambridge to a little coffee shop for a latte, ate too much for second breakfast including chicken and waffles at Tupelo, and then headed home for nap time for the boys and pottery for me. Tantrums were at a minimum and family time was a delightful maximum. But last year’s Mother’s Day was definitely more “eventful.”
Brunch is my favorite. Breakfast at an in-between hour full of delicious decadences like ricotta cream pancakes and honey lattes and I am ready to go! Last year, Henry was two and Owen just turned one. I thought I was in the “sweet spot” of motherhood. No more breast-feeding and two independent kiddos to dine out with. Today, I can look back and say that was a good time but this current situation is even sweeter. But anyway, back to last year:
Owen was a gaggy kiddo. Seriously, every single meal Owen would eat some random thing and begin to epically choke. He would purse his lips out, make a growl, and look as though a second more he would pass out. Typically, I would panic, grab him, flip him upside down, and bang on his back. There was a 50% chance that he would dislodge the the item (be it a morsel of chicken or a crumb of bread or a spoon of applesauce) and continue enjoying his dinner as though nothing had just occurred. The other 50% of the time he would vomit his dinner up and then continue to enjoy his dinner as though nothing had occurred. Either situation left me sweating and exhausted from the roller coaster of panic to disgust to confusion over what I should clean first. We never made it through a single meal for months on end without this kid having a good ole choke.
So why did we think brunch on Mother’s Day would be any different? Well, I held out hope that the stars would align and Mother’s Day would be special and therefore if he only ate truly soft items or stuck to purely liquid foods we would make it through brunch at the cottage in Wellesley without an issue. We sat at the table amidst a crowded dining area filled with loads and loads of moms and children of all ages. We ordered and chatted and mostly maintained a state of calm with the kids and a handful of little table toys. Owen was to eat some scrambled eggs and I was ready to sip my latte and have some crab cake Benedict. The meal went on like this for maybe 30 or 40 minutes and I remember sighing and thinking: Wow, this is amazing.
And then it happened. Owen’s breath caught in his throat, he was choking on barely a finger-nail sized piece of mushy scrambled egg! HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING?!?!? I tried not to panic. This was routine and like a well-practiced, first-responder I hoisted him out of his chair, tipped his head toward the floor and administered a solid thud thud to his back. The egg flopped out and placing him back in his seat, it seemed like the crisis was averted. Taking the napkin to the egg bit on the floor, I sat back up in my chair just in time for it. Owen’s choke was the 50% in which he lost his breakfast contents. He spued the contents of his baby breakfast which somehow multiplied on the way out all over himself and the plate in front of him. I WAS THAT MOM! How could I have come to a fancy-ish brunch with a sick kid? Except everyone at my table KNEW he wasn’t sick, this was standard non-sick behavior. I did the only thing I could think of. I sacrificed every clothe napkin on the table to cover his spillage and then stripped him naked to his diaper. I took his clothes and asked David to throw them in the garbage in the bathroom. As though a Navy Seal on a covert Op, David snuck off to complete his assignment. No use saving that little shirt and pant if our dignity was also gone! The waiter came back to the table and you could see he was pausing. You could almost read his mind saying, “Something happened here.” The baby was naked but everyone else was dressed in button-downs or sun-dresses, everyone was nervously laughing and in unison we asked for the check!
We walked out into the sunny parking lot like we had just sprung from jail and raced to the car as though anyone from the restaurant would follow us. Buckling the kids into the car, we turned on the ignition and looked at each other the only way parents do when you are simultaneously thinking: this is nuts, WTF, and I love this family.
Does this happen in your house? The weather gets a touch warmer, the sun shines a bit brighter, and the general consensus becomes….It’s Spring! You cannot ever say this too loudly in New England of course, because surely if Mother Nature sees the rejoicing, she will inevitably throw one last April snow storm your way. But, this is not about the slow slide into Spring.
In our house, we have a problem. A serious one. Well not so serious, but hilariously annoying. Henry and Owen have plum forgotten how to deal with short sleeves. After over 150 days of cold temperatures and a commitment to cozy long sleeves, jackets, sweaters, gloves, hats, long john’s, and heavy socks, this weekend I pulled out a short sleeved shirt and their world melted. Really though! It all started like a normal morning. We cuddled in bed as a family and laughed and talked about our day. We ate some breakfast slowly and I drank a cup of coffee. Then we headed upstairs to shift into our attire for the day. They slipped on their pants, one leg at a time and chatted about their interests and ideas. No issue when it came to the socks either. Then it was time for the shirt. This item had drastically changed in their 24 hour cycle. With predictions in the mid-60s, it was time to try a short sleeve. Naively, I thought nothing of this moment. It was just part of the normalcy of my own Spring transition. A time of year, that is exciting and much anticipated.
But, for the boys is was HARD and devastating! What the heck are short-sleeves? Why are my arms suddenly exposed? What do I do in the breeze? They fussed quite a bit as I tried to wrestle them into one. THEN once on, they were not impressed. Bottom lips all the way out, it was clear they were not happy with this new development. Each tried harder than the other to pull the little sleeves down their arms. Unfortunately, this only made the shoulder become exposed as it popped out the neck opening! Then came the arm slapping as though that would generate some sort of warmth or coverage. Finally they pulled their arms inside and down their shirts to stick alongside their torsos. And there we were, my armless boys unwilling to give Spring a try and I a tired and sweaty parent not sure how to get them outside to run and enjoy the shift in weather. They won the battle. Donning long sleeve shirts and demanding jackets and gloves too, we headed out. Slowly they shed the gloves, then the jackets. They did not budge on the shirts though. By Sunday, we got Henry into the short sleeves as long as they were batman. Now we wait the little one out. The temperatures will eventually convince them, no?
Much of the day of mommyhood is processing and responding to funny, sweet, and weird phrases, conversations and requests from Henry and Owen. So many of these parenting gems have been lost to the abyss of noise that is forever constant from sunrise to sunset, but every now and then, I have enough mental clarity to recall from my working memories those little sillies and jot them down for posterity. And then add to this an assortment of the many socially acceptable behaviors we try to encourage and discourage the boys from doing in an attempt to socialize them to the cultural norms they are a part of.
From the parents:
No, you can’t lick your brother
Don’t touch your butthole or you will get pink eye
Eating a cake pop off the floor of Starbucks is yucky
Did you pee pee on the couch? Where should we go to the bathroom?
Buster doesn’t want you to ride on him
From the babies & toddlers:
Let’s play pretend tiger. What is that? It is when I roar at you and then you scream and then say wait you are just pretend.
Baby in there, as Owen points to my boob
I have an idea, how about I eat my dinner and then we go to CVS for a new toy?
Can we play hide the ball? I will hide it first….okay ready Owen runs over to the hidden spot and points to where the ball is. No, Owen stop it, be more fun.
Ce Ce Ja Ja? Puppy Ja Ja? Santa Pajamas or Puppy Pajamas what Owen wants to wear all day everyday.
Can we just do dinner and a show? Trying to have dinner small talk and Henry would prefer to do otherwise. Ha Ha nice try kid!
Hands mommy Hands! Any time we ride in the car, Owen gets his shoes off and slides his socks onto his hands. His proudest moment.
On December 18, we eat sausage and rice casserole. David’s birthday request is a standard meal from childhood. A dish full of family folklore and a recurring request across all birthdays on David’s side. It is a simple and direct meal with few ingredients and even less prep. It is delicious and not a grain of rice is left after mealtime. Clearly, it is a birthday request meal I can easily stand behind. Then David said, “I think this might be my new favorite meal for my birthday!” What could this meal be? What dish could possibly unseat the casserole that has stolen hearts and minds for the past 36 years? Hold your breath…..it’s shepard’s pie!
I know what you are thinking: Really? Yes, really!
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Browned the beed. Transfer to a plate.
In the same pot over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs of the butter. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic, cover and cook, stirring, until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Stir in the broth and wine. Add the rosemary. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the pot bottom. Return the beef to the pot, cover, place in the oven and cook until about 1 1/2 hours. About 30 minutes before the dish is ready, oil a baking dish. In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well. Cut 3 Tbs. of the butter into pieces and add to the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes while adding enough cream to create a smooth texture. Season the meat mixture with salt and pepper, stir in the peas and pour into the prepared baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into bits and use to dot the top. Bake until the top is lightly tinged with brown, about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
On Friday, I went to a SoulCyle class because it had been a year since I last hopped onto a bike and I finally felt “ready” to get back in the saddle. Clicking into the pedals, the nerves hit and I started to think that I made a mistake. Was I ready to really push myself? Was I awake enough to make this session “worth” the price of the entrance ticket? The instructor came in and started doing that thing that SoulCycle instructors do where they positive talk about goals, body image, and motivation. It may seem sappy but it was exactly the message that resonated most with me. As she turned out the lights and turned up the music, it hit me that almost a year ago to the day, I took my last SoulCycle class and I was not alone. Tucked inside was baby Owen who seemingly slept through the rigorous class. I remember taking that final class and thinking about meeting my baby soon after, about what he would be like, what he would look like, and when he would arrive. It was hard to be on the bike with a bulging belly and it was weird to be back on that bike without one. That class had been for Owen. It was to give him a fit pregnancy, healthy environment, and ideally an easy delivery. This class was for me. The instructor Charlotte started to talk about three words: Permission, Support and Courage. And, I am not going to lie, I might have teared up a bit in class as she shared her message and as I reflected on all that happened in those 365 days since I last saw Charlotte.
After baby, looking in the mirror can be a little tough and rough. A deflated belly is hard to process. Shouldn’t everything just go back into place upon the little one’s arrival, no? It was hard the first time with Henry to see the transformation that occurs in the postpartum period and it was just as hard the second time even though I had my previous knowledge. This is where Charlotte’s message about permission hit most. We don’t give ourselves enough permission to heal and be and recover. Often when grocery shopping, I will see a magazine cover that says something like “So and so is back to pre-baby body in just 2 weeks!” and she is lauded and praised and touted as the norm. Good for her! Seriously that is some impressive sh*t! But, I have learned for myself that I need to give myself permission. Permission to soak in all that just happened: I grew a human. This baby took over my entire body cavity. He moved all of my organs, he stretched out my skin, he took my nourishment, he grew strong and fat and pushed my bones to their limits. This is a point of pride! It took 9 months to get to that point and I need to give my body permission to heal and slowly return to a settled place. It is also so important to give permission to just be in awe: WOW. And permission to not exercise until my body really feels ready to tackle that. And you know what, it might always be a little soft and a little “flabby” or it might always look like I have a “baby bump” but then again I did have two babies and my body will wear those experiences because I am only human.
Charlotte also shared a lot about support. When you are on a stationary bike you can let the wheel fly. This means not having any resistance and just allowing your legs to rotate freely and quickly as though you were sprinting along. This feels good but it is not always productive as you coast. When you add that resistance by turning the knob, Charlotte calls out “add support!” and then you feel the tension on the wheel and your legs have to work to rotate around that axis. You feel the support as though the ground became thicker and you muscles start to say hello. Mommying can be very isolating. Some nights when you are awake 3 or 4 times in the night with your baby you know that you need to be there for them and comfort them but you ache for sleep and I ached for someone to help me. “What happens if you don’t stand in your own way,” Charlotte asks “what would happen if you actually pushed yourself?” It took months for me to really ask for help with Owen’s sleep. I thought that with baby 2, I should just know how to get him to be comforted and to sleep. Working full-time and having a toddler on top of a new baby was a new equation. When I finally really let David in to support me at night, we all started to sleep better. Yes, David woke up and yes he cradled Owen and rocked him as Owen screamed into David’s face for what felt like hours, but Owen learned to be supported by David and I learned to be supported by David and we learned that we are WAY stronger when we work together than when we think “we got this” alone.
The class ended with Charlotte talking about courage. She had us working our way up a hill and adding more and more support to the bike when she said, “Are you giving it all you got? What would happen if you didn’t hold back? Maybe you would fall but you would learn something. You would learn how strong you are and how strong you can be!” Owen is working on walking. He fearlessly let’s go of the coffee table and takes a few steps. He falls a lot, he smashes his face sometimes on that table, but he smiles and tries again and again and he is getting better. You can see his balance improving, his steps becoming more confident, and his legs getting stronger. He is one courageous little dude. And sometimes we have to remember to take those steps too in life. To get out of our comfort zone. To give ourselves permission to try and to be courageous enough to get back into that saddle!
The birthday celebrations that cram into the first week of June end with my mom’s birthday today. It has unfortunately fallen on my school’s graduation the past 4 years and I have not been able to celebrate with her personally. Hopefully, though she knows how much I love her and how much I wish I could be there to celebrate her birthday with her today. At least this year, in just four days, we will see each other for a mini-Florida vacation. Growing up, my mom worked tirelessly to ensure that Bryan and I were not only basically well fed and sheltered, but truly loved, challenged, and thriving. She focused on our education and helped us hone our writing, reading, and critical thinking skills. Each day after school, we would make camp at the kitchen table while she prepared dinner and we worked on our homework. There we munched on snacks, chatted about the days events, and struggled with Spanish, grammar and, of course, math. In between sautéing vegetables, she would quiz us for our upcoming assessments, help us create a variety of projects from scratch, and go over our work with us making sure we asked questions but more importantly that we could explain why we had the answers to her questions. I believe I am teacher today because she was always a present teacher in my daily life. She balanced this strength and determination though with a soft side and I can recall many times snuggling on the couch with her and talking about her own childhood memories. My mom was my partner in crime. Many afternoons we would sneak out to the mall together and shop for dresses for school dances. While we sometimes argued in the fitting room over the style of dress (I always aimed for something a little too mature and she for something a little more immature), we designed a veto system to turn these tiffs into productive discussions in which we explained why a particular outfit was unappealing to one of us. By the time, it came to buying my wedding dress, we had mastered our veto system and the experience of being just with my mom on the day we found “the dress” is a memory I will always cherish. My brother and I were so lucky to have our mother home with us each day. She modeled unconditional love, patience, support, and she always believed in the beauty of our dreams. I hope today my lovely mother has a truly lovely day.