Friday, June 15, 2018

Words and Seeds and Stars

We got Landon's STAAR scores yesterday. That's the standardized test in Texas schools. I don't care much about the tests and one of the reasons we chose our neighborhood was because on our public school tour the principal walked what we felt was the right line between acknowledging that test scores matter for the school in ways they can't control while also talking about all the ways the teach their students well beyond the testing's bounds. Landon is bright and has no stress about these things so it's a non-event, but I went online to pull his scores anyway because he happened to give me the take-home sheet with the instructions on how to do so this year and I like to follow directions. Fourth grade is the first year they are tested in writing (along with reading and math they start in 3rd) and he got a perfect score and was in the 100th percentile. I didn't know the 100th percentile was a thing, but there it was, and in writing. That's so powerful, I told him. Not the score, but the ability to write. The fact that you enjoy it. That a blank page isn't intimidating, it's an invitation. He's always been like that. When we had our first Kindergarten parent teacher meeting, back when we didn't know if he was at all engaged in learning and had NO idea he already knew how to read (parents of the year, right there), we were shocked- genuinely floored- when his teacher turned over all their regular class work pages to show these long essays he was writing and then illustrating on the back of every page. That will help you your whole life, I said, the ability to clearly translate your thoughts into words.

Writing has always been essential to me. I love a blank page, so full of possibilities. There is a deep satisfaction in reading your own words and thinking, yes, that's exactly what I meant. I was surprised by the post I started writing Monday night. I was more surprised that when I finished long after James had gone to bed I read it through tears and thought yes, that's exactly what I meant. And so I pressed publish and went to bed, snuggling into James and feeling oddly at peace with baring my soul because I'd found just the right words to do it. I woke up in a panic 6 hours later and my first thought was ohmygodwhatdidIdo. I frantically grabbed my phone, checked my blog, and yep- there it was. All my words. Words that still felt right, but also felt so raw. People will see this I thought, heart pounding. People I know. Friends, strangers, my PARENTS. They will see and they will KNOW and it will be weird. Three separate times on Tuesday morning I almost pulled it down.

And then the comments came. Comments and emails and texts. It took me 20 hours and a "good stuff" margarita from our favorite taco place to publish the blog link on my personal facebook page. I normally publish a link to every blog post I write, but very nearly skipped this one. But, as I wrote in the facebook post- isn't that the point? I put the kids to bed and waited an hour to check facebook and when I did, I looked through squinted eyes, like that would help feel less exposed to comments that already existed whether I was reading them through blurry eyes or not. And there they were, these wonderful, supportive, personal comments, and you guys, if there's anything I learned besides "sometimes what you publish after midnight is not a mistake," it's that we need to talk about these things. I cannot tell you how many "me too" texts I got from people who surprised me. I still have many to respond to, but know that I read every single one, probably multiple times and they meant the world. And while I don't think anyone has any obligation to disclose that part of their life or confidential medical history, I do think there is quite a bit of power in doing so in a safe place or friendship. (Or very public blog post.)

Several people asked what they could do to be available for people in their life who may be struggling. And that's a hard one to answer because every one is so different- both in their actual struggles, how they perceive their struggles, and the balance between how welcome v. how necessary reaching out may be. So I don't know. In my case I had no idea I was in a hole so (1) I wouldn't have expected anyone else to realize it either; and (2) even if someone had I wouldn't have been receptive to help because I would have been surprised and probably hurt that someone thought I needed it. But as a backdrop I'd say (in my capacity as an absolutely untrained, unlicensed, non-medical professional), be someone who brings up counseling or therapy as a regular, even assumed medical option. Be someone a person who is struggling (even if they don't know it yet) knows they could mention it to. A few years ago a good friend happened to mention talking to a counselor at a tough time in her life while we were getting pedicures. It takes a leap of faith to bring that up and I felt honored by it. It also then sat in the back of my mind as a reminder that yes, people do that, along with the knowledge that this friend was someone I could ask about it. At the time I never thought I would, but still, the knowledge was there. And then six months ago, several years after our conversation, she's who I asked how she found her therapist. It's planting seeds. If a friend is talking to you about feeling frustrated all the time or overwhelmed maybe say, "have you thought of talking to a counselor about that? I have a friend who did that and it really helped." (Or even better, if it's true, "I did that and it really helped.") And then leave it. They'll ask questions if they want or let it percolate or reject it outright, but no matter what they'll know that you think that's okay to do and they'll know you're someone they could talk to later if they wanted to. It's little and it's fairly passive, but it's something and I think it matters to hear people in your life talk about mental health the way they might regularly suggest seeing a doctor or specialist for any kind of physical ailment.

But know also that mental health is just that- mental. It's complicated and distorted by our own reality and perceptions. Sometimes people won't get help who should and that isn't anyone else's fault. I don't think I would have listened to anyone except James that I needed help. And even though he is the person I love and trust most in the whole world, a person who I knew had benefited immensely from therapy himself, it was not a smooth or painless path for either of us in getting me to listen to him.

I guess would also say, for yourself and those close to you- depression and anxiety can look very different from what you think they are. Anxiety doesn't have to be "excessive worrying," the way it is often described. It can be about past hurts and triggers and vulnerabilities. Feeling things are directed at you when they're not, or that something should be about you that isn't. It might not at all be about stress or feeling overwhelmed or anything of the things I thought it was. It can be an inability to get over things. An involuntary need to keep score. It can be SO MANY things and you can still be genuinely happy much of the time you're also battling it. I didn't know that before. Anytime I thought "hey maybe this is a problem," I'd knock it down with "but I'm happy! I'm not a worrier. I feel joy, I don't feel stressed about my life, I actually feel really good about all the parts of my life right now." And that was absolutely true. But we're complicated creatures; we can feel lots of things at once. And sometimes there are feelings that get in the way of relationships or that don't make a lot of sense in the overall framework and maybe it's those that don't need to be there at all.

I need to move on. There are mundane life things to discuss like the fact that our new master bedroom floors erupted two days after they were installed and we now have a mountain range of peaks and valleys and broken wood all across our floor. And both our AC units tried to break two days apart but have now both been fixed. We had our first swim meet last weekend and it was so fun and toddlers in caps and goggles are a magical thing. Landon is at running camp and just discovered fanny packs and thinks they are the coolest. Claire is at Greatest Showman Broadway jazz camp and having the best week ever. James is being interviewed by the Fort Worth Star Telegram today for his work on the Drowning Prevention Coalition and I'm so proud of him. Cora has two "ear confections" and can't swim and it's been a struggle for us all. I have two weeks of meals to share. I fed a giraffe named Captain lettuce on Sunday and it needs to be discussed with MANY exclamation marks.

But I would like to say, before we get back to the everyday business of life, thank you. Thank you for your comments, your support, and for sharing your stories. I write because I need to, but a huge part of the joy I get from it is knowing you all our reading and knowing I can trust you with my words.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Black Holes, Climbing Out Of

I had never really understood the stigma around talking about mental health. Friends and family members have needed various sorts of counseling or mental health help over the years and I've always been an enthusiastic supporter. Your brain is part of your body and no one debates taking care of their heart or bones or anything else, so get thee to whatever medical professional you need at the time and address whatever medical situation you have with a view to a healthier future. I couldn't imagine why it always had to be so secretive.

When Landon had tantrums around age 8 that none of us could control or understand, we went to a children's therapist. I never questioned that step. As soon as we saw we were in over our heads, we got ourselves to someone who knew more than we did and everyone benefited. We didn't go for a while after that and then at age 10 it became clear the approach that had worked at 8 didn't work anymore, so we went to a new therapist. Maybe what we were seeing was normal tweenage behavior, but we go to a pediatrician every year despite his obvious physical health, so why not get a mental health check-up too? And we did. And it was helpful for everyone. I don't talk about it too much to respect his privacy, but I felt- and continue to feel- strongly that we took the right steps and to genuinely not understand parents who wouldn't pause a moment before calling a pediatrician but who delay for months or years or forever in calling a counselor. We all benefited from adding that professional to our lives and I hope Landon benefits for his whole life by knowing that the mental element of healthcare is important and there for him and those he loves.

James has benefited immeasurably from the therapy he started a few years ago. I don't talk much about that either because again, not my story, but holy hell to the extent his story overlaps into mine- and it surely does- I can say that therapy changed our lives. I sobbed in my office the day he called me after his first appointment and told me how it made him feel. I was turned around in my desk chair, staring blindly out the window, and my shoulders were shaking as I tried to cry silently because my door was open. It felt like a thousand pound weight had lifted from my chest and his. I learned so many things about him I didn't know and over the next year he worked really hard and unlearned basically his whole childhood and he couldn’t have done without help.

I write all this to say I am pro-counseling and psychology and psychiatry and see them all as an essential part of overall health. I don't want there to be a stigma around mental healthcare and I have benefited enormously from the people in my life seeking out help when needed and would passionately support anyone in doing the same.

And yet.

I have been seeing a therapist since February, been on medication since March, and I have not talked about it. To anyone, really. You could say it isn't anyone's business, and it's not. But I make all sorts of things other people's business through my blog- if I had a problem with anything else medical you know I would have written a dozen posts about it by now. I had skin cancer and took you all on an overly detailed photo journalistic journey of my zombie skin cream and the scarring that resulted from it. But on this, this huge, new thing that has occupied much of my mind for six months, on this I have been silent. It is a terrifyingly vulnerable thing to admit. All my earnest yet undeniably naive past assertions that "mental health is just part of human health, of course we should talk about it! it shouldn't be a secret!" fall to the wayside when it's me admitting what feels like some sort of failure. Like everything I've ever read as an excuse for not talking about mental health suddenly became true because it's me. That it's a weakness. That I should have been able to fix it. That it makes everything I've written for the first half of the year somehow less. That the happy stories are lies and now everything I write in the future will be read through that lens.

I know that isn't true. I know that because I lived the last six months and I know that anything I wrote was true. I also know I wrote less often for that to be so.

I fell down a deep dark hole after Christmas. I didn't know I was in a hole, but there I was, at the bottom of it anyway. You read so much about people just needing to reach out, but you can't reach out when you don't know you need to. I mean it's not an actual hole. It's sadness for no clear reason. It's needing a reason to be happy instead of needing a reason to not be. It's feeling utterly, unbearably alone when people surround you. It's irritability and a lack of patience, even as part of you knows what's happening isn't irritating and can't figure out why you're upset while the other half feels absolutely righteous in your upset and accepts this small, ridiculous thing as something you will never get over. It is feeling so protective over your flickers of joy that you absolutely lose it when something goes wrong and your fragile inner candle is snuffed out. Don't you know how hard I worked to feel happy and hopeful about something? How DARE you forget some small thing I told you to remember and now the whole day is ruined and I don't know how I'll get that happiness back again. ... I promise it all made perfect sense at the time.

It was James who told me something was wrong. It was me who trusted him and his intentions enough to believe it.

My first appointment with my therapist was terrifying. My hands sweated the whole time as I fought not to brush off her every question with a laugh and self-deprecating funny story. I realize now that wouldn't have worked anyway, but at the time answering "I don't know" to multiple questions in a row to a quasi-authority figure was perhaps the bravest thing I've ever done.

"She doesn't understand me at all," I told James after my first visit. "She's totally on the wrong track. It feels like a waste of time." But I kept going, because once I realized I was in the hole I was sure as fuck going to get out of it. And also because I had no idea how to break up with a therapist and I was afraid I'd never start going again to another one. Five months of biweekly visits later and I don't say that anymore. She understands me just fine, she is not on the wrong track, and it is very much not a waste of time. As it turns out, my mental health professional knows more about my mental health than I do.

And so, I have generalized anxiety disorder. I fought that label because I'm not anxious and I don't really worry about things, but that's not always how anxiety manifests itself. Anti-depressants are helping. I was on Lexapro for 2 days and it made me so sick I couldn't leave the couch because my head wanted to explode. I switched to Paxil and have no side effects at all. It's helping. I can feel it helping. I don't have a fight or flight reaction when something hits a stress point or past hurt. Or I don't do it as often and I recognize it better when I do. I still have a ways to go to remission.

The deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week hit hard. Bourdain particularly because I'd just finished reading his book Kitchen Confidential and had loved it so much and recommended it to so many. Amy's blog post today hit even harder. I've read Amy since 2007 and she was one of the first to indignantly and supportively publicize what we were going through with Landon in Chicago. I don't have anything particularly wise to add to the conversation going on right now about mental health and suicide. I know that simply telling people to reach out for help isn't enough. Depression lies. Not just in big ways, like suicidal thoughts (something I never had), but in little ways too. In telling you that you're just not trying hard enough; or that you're all alone when you're not; or that nothing is wrong at all and your absolutely abnormal reactions are perfectly normal and justified. After all, you can't yell for help when you don't know you're in the hole. Depression lies.

I don't know what the answer is. I think part of it is actually treating mental health like any other regular aspect of healthcare. It's talking about it and showing what it looks like. Unfortunately I've discovered that poor mental health looks an awful lot like excellent mental health, but I don't think I knew that before. Earlier this year I kept thinking, but I'm still happy! And I was. I'm still social, I love my friends, I work out, I delight in nachos, I have a great job, I love my family... my shit is still together. And all of that was true. But I was still in a hole, feeling inexorably alone. Sometimes I'm still in it. I just know how to climb out now and Paxil gives me the ladder to do it.

I hope that it helps someone to know that. I feel at once more vulnerable and more complete for saying it. I keep coming back to the quote, "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." This is my battle right now. I'm thankful for access to the tools to help me fight it and I hope I can meet the people in my life better able to help them fight theirs. Even if that just means making someone feel a little less alone in the battle.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Claire is 8

Claire is 8. EIGHT. Why does this feel so much older than 7? (or "sebben" as Cora has spent the last year wistfully referring to it.) This chunky baby biscuit turned highly accessorized toddler turned long and lean big kid, my baby girl, Landon's first baby, the one who made us a family of four who would want to become a family of five is 8.

She is all the things I wrote about her in this post and so much more. She remains my snuggliest, my one who most needs the attention of others. She's a great reader, but she only wants to do it if she can read out loud to you. She's independent and strong, but she'd love it if you just came to do the things with her. She can shower on her own, but couldn't you just come check to make sure her hair is rinsed out? Her coloring is the most like mine, particularly when I was her age, which must be why it continually baffles me that her personality isn't like mine at all. She has taught me much, she will teach me more, she is our Clairebear and she is 8.

We celebrated with a Greatest Showman birthday party. For the first time since we moved to this house and celebrated Claire's 2nd birthday we did not have a pool party. At first I was flummoxed. You want to do something that isn't just swimming with your friends? I need to plan an activity? You want your friends INSIDE our house? But I feel like we pulled it off.

There's not a lot of Greatest Showman paraphernalia yet so we went with the general color scheme and some items pulled from the "magic show" and "movie party" sections of Party City. It worked. Claire picked cheese balls and animal crackers as her snacks, we made a candy bar for take-home treats, and there was ice cream cake for later.

For the activities Claire felt strongly there should be singing to the Greatest Showman soundtrack (aka the soundtrack of our lives for the last several months) and a serious and focused viewing of the movie. I told her I really felt there needed to be something to do during the movie because it can be hard to focus for that long ("Not on the Greatest Showman!" she cried) and I would hate for her friends to be bored and distracted and her to be sad no one is staring at the screen with her.

So we went with a craft. Claire loves a good craft. A cruise around the aisles of Michaels last weekend led me to the idea of "dream boxes" from Claire's very favorite song, "A Million Dreams."

We bought boxes and paints and lots of decorations, plus a large tarp to put under it all so James would be able to attend without having a breakdown.

Before the art there was lots of singing and then a choreographed show Claire and one of her besties put on after they practiced at recess last week. It was adorable.

Though Cora wasn't impressed.

The movie was a hit and I fast-forwarded some to get to all the songs by the end. Cora, exhausted from all our partying at the Last Day of School pool party the night before, didn't want to miss out on the movie, so she wordlessly pulled up a nap mat and snuggled in. Not much gets between Cora and her rest.

With the dream boxes complete and fairly minimal mess made (8 year old girls are pretty solid crafters; there was some serious ART going on at that table and I loved it), we moved on to cake. Claire had requested a fancy candle she'd been admiring in the aisle of our local grocery store and, feeling generous, I'd thrown it in my cart during a round of pool party errands earlier in the week.

Readers, that candle scared the crap out of her.

She did not at all think it needed to be blown out. Cora found the whole thing highly irresponsible and knew she'd been right to be skeptical of cake all along.

But Claire persevered, blew out the fire blazing on our kitchen table to save the ice cream cake melting underneath.

Landon has now requested one for his birthday in July.

All in all I feel like our first non-swim party went okay. And since it was 109 degrees outside that day (actual temperature! opening the door was like getting punched in the face by the sun), I was actually really glad we were all inside! James and I got everything cleaned up, a re-watching of Greatest Showman going on the living room TV for the birthday girl, and both fell onto the couch where we were soon joined by a sleepy Cora. Three parties in six days. Good thing we have five whole weeks before Landon's.

Sunday was relaxed and gorgeous. We slept in, I made our shopping list, but as I walked outside to go to the store I realized the air wasn't already heavy with heat and humidity and I ran inside yelling, "WE'RE GOING ON A WALK!!". A cool front had come through in the night and it was a genuinely lovely 78 outside at 9 a.m.

So a walk was had, errands were run, and then friends came over to swim before we headed to their house to test out a new smoker. I made two of my favorite side dishes. Kids played, adults watched the world series for women's softball. It was a solid end to a CRAZY week.

And on Monday, it was Claire's real birthday! The day she actually turned 8. The morning 8 years ago I remember so very clearly. Landon's birth was such a shock and then Claire's was so planned and scheduled.

We decorated the table the night before. Landon had come out to check up on all the activity and added his own gift. He loves a nighttime table decorating and Claire loved the results.

((heart squeeze))

Landon had made her a ring with his 3D pen and we got her a much-requested water bottle (with monogram sticker because it felt very Claire to me) and Caboodle full of tiny special things for my little pack rat hoarder. The best gifts are the ones you don't want to buy (I hate tiny hoarded things) and she LOVED IT.

I did love my Caboodle growing up and was thrilled to find them back on Amazon. The caboodle and its contents are now Claire's greatest treasure.

My parents got her two new outfits and a gift card to Michael's (to buy more tiny things to put in the caboodle!) and I used my grandparents' birthday check to buy her a Mighty music player which she loves. She's our musical girl and I love that she can have her own playlist that doesn't need wifi or a data plan to play on her headphones or little bluetooth speaker. She rocks around the house with it all day and it reminds me so strongly of my sister and I loving our new walkman's (with cassette tape and radio options!) back in the day.

Then she and Landon went to James's swim camp, Cora went to school, and I went to work. Claire requested last minute birthday cupcakes and I figured why not, so I stopped on the way home to pick up a box mix to make up while the kids were at afternoon swim practice (swimming was a theme of this week; 7 practices in 4 days, which is a lot even for our crew!). I accidentally made too many so I texted friends to please come by and help us eat them after dinner.

A dinner that was Claire's choice so of course it was... BBQ QUINOA SALAD!!!! She says it just like that, in all caps, and with many exclamation points. Claire LOVES this meal and she eats more of it than anyone at the table.

Did you spy our new birthday candle animals? We've had the dinosaur and pig for years (since 2010) and a blog reader found me a full set on eBay earlier this year, so the giraffe and whale were huge and exciting surprises for Claire. And Landon doesn't even know we still have more for him in July. I love little traditions and candle animals are a sweet one. Obviously we re-lit them both for dinner and then she blew out a non fire-hazard candle for dessert.

Happy birthday sweet sunshine girl, we sure do love you!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Awards, Parties, and Margarita Machines Forever

WHOAH, the end of May is madness. Super fun madness, but madness all the same. When we last left off we had hosted a Memorial Day pool party and jumped into the final week of school. Our new nanny started on Tuesday and I did not have to get to work by 7 a.m. to be able to leave in time to get the kids to swimming on time so that was GREAT. The kids also liked her very much and I'm very happy to get to pay someone to pick them up in the afternoons again.

On Wednesday I worked from home because we had Claire's awards ceremony in the afternoon and a crew coming to the house to install wood floors in our bedroom (FINALLY! I swore we'd rip out that gross carpet the day we moved in... 6+ years ago), do some updates in the girls' bathroom, and restain our deck. And it all had to be done before our last day of school party on Friday.

Let the fun begin!

Fun that wraps up in 48 hours with a super clean house pretty pretty please!

Moving on, we headed over to school after lunch for Claire's awards. So hard to believe this little Bear is heading to 3rd grade! I still think of her as the world's most excited Kindergartner.

She's had such a great year and continues to love school and her teacher with her whole heart.

We do end of the year thank you notes to the teachers. Claire's are always very sweet and this year I finally remembered to take a picture of it.

Landon's ceremony was on Thursday.

We're terrible about ever taking video of anything, but I'd regretted not getting some of Claire's moment the other day so I asked James to get out his phone and now I'm SO GLAD because I was cracking up while they read out his list of awards and he got Wrangler of the Year which is AMAZING and something he literally wrote down as his goal for this school year back in August and basically we're just crazy proud of this kid and I'm glad I have this clip.

Beaming! Also grabbing a quick picture in the school lobby before James ran (literally) out to his car to drive to his lessons.

I got a quick picture of Landon and his teacher before checking him out a few mins early (along with every other parent/kid at school). I can't believe he's going to be in 5th grade next year. I really can't believe he'll be in middle school the year after that. I don't want to leave our sweet diverse wonderful school and I've decided I'm just not going to think about it.

So the kids and I went to Sonic to celebrate and stay in denial.

Later that evening we told Landon he could pick anywhere he wanted to go out for dinner to celebrate his Wrangler of the Year award (and also this National literacy award that he was the only one in his school to win that we had no idea about). Annnnyyywhere you want. And where did he want to go? Cici's pizza. He could not be tempted by other, much more delicious pizza served in cleaner, calmer environments, so off we went. $27 for a family of five later he told us it was the best pizza he'd ever had in his life so I suppose it worked out just the way it was supposed to.

Also on Thursday our floors were finished!

They look great!

And now I need rugs and curtains and new bedding. And a bench for the foot of the bed. And something for the back wall. I've decorated some kids' rooms (multiple times) and the rest of our house. It's the grown-up's turn now.

And then it was Friday and the last day of school! I couldn't believe it was here and my baby birds are off to 3rd grade, 5th grade, and our very last year of daycare ever!

I got a picture of Claire (because she finally let me do the pigtails I've been requesting for a year) and Landon said, "wait, you don't want one of me too?!" Of course I do!

(Quick funny Landon story. The 4th graders had their "growing up" health video in school on Wednesday. As I walked Landon home I asked him if he learned anything new, had any questions, etc. "No," he said, with a hand-wave and a knowing voice, "you know, the books, the talks with dad..." This his whole face lit up, "OH WAIT! Did you know when I hit puberty I'm going to sweat EVEN MORE? I mean [as he gestures to his soaking wet hair, face, and shirt from outdoor recess], CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?"

Laughing, "No, no I can't, but buddy, I think we're kind of just there now."

Obviously relieved, "Oh good, because seriously."

We have a now-traditional Last Day of School Pool Party. The kids are all hyped up on class-party sugar and last day of school excitement, so hanging out by the pool with adult beverages and swimming children is the perfect way to cap off a crazy week. We get it catered to make it easy and it's become my favorite day of the year. (Along with like my 25 other favorite days, but it's my favorite day in MAY.) We've been joking for 2 years about our friend Julian buying a margarita machine to bring to our pool parties and on Friday morning we got this text and I felt like it was Christmas and all my dreams were coming true;

It was 105 degrees outside (not an exaggeration; actual temperature) and this was AMAZING.

I picked Claire up for school and she somehow snagged this as a gift from her class party and we were ready to throw down.

Our deck was done being stained at 10 p.m. the night before, I'd moved all the furniture back and set up the coolers and tables (and sweated through an entire set of clothes), the pool was cleaned, last year's pool toys hosed off, and the pomegranate margaritas marinating in the fridge. We were ready. I love this party.

Future elementary schoolers!

James had to coach, so he picked up the food after his lessons were over. In the past I'd learned not to put food out right away at pool parties, because the kids just swim and everything gets yucky. I'd also learned (in the past) that no one eats as much as you think they will because they're too busy swimming. So I ordered the same amount of food I did last year when we had a few additional people and figured we'd be set. But we were NOT. You guys, for the first time in my whole life of hosting parties we RAN OUT OF FOOD. I was mortified. How could I call myself a hostess? The kids inhaled everything and the adults picked at the remains. Our friend made a cookie cake that last year we ate maybe 1/3 of and this year only a few edge pieces remained.

So our kids eat more now. Noted. Next year I'm getting double.

The margaritas continued. Kids' cherry slushes on the right, adult beverages on the left. And the kids swam and swam and swam.

And swam. Is there anything better than a pool party that goes past bedtime when you're a kid?

My memories say there is not. It was a really great night. I can't believe another school year is over.

And then on Saturday we hosted Claire's birthday party! But we'll get to that later because today we're not hosting a thing. Not that I'd mind another go at the margarita machine...

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Our Family, in Rainbow Colors

So about 3 hours after publishing my last post our photographer sent me our proofs! And I LOVE THEM. I love the downtown location, I love the lighting, I love the colors. I love that the blue water wall made me look outside my usual blues for clothing colors. I love that we're all wearing clothes from our closets and looking generally like ourselves, just a little spiffed up and a lot excited about eating ice cream afterward.

We hadn't done a photo session in about 20 months and while I feel like Claire looks about the same, Landon and Cora both look a half-step older. They each moved up a phase in between, from toddler to kid and from kid to tween. I'm so glad to have captured them all again so beautifully.

Because while I don't find parenting older kids to be as peaceful or intuitive as parenting young ones, I do just adore the people they're turning into.

And I love how close they are with each other. It's the end of the school year so both big kids are bringing home all their works from the year. I was reading Landon's writing journal last night and was struck by how often he writes about his sisters. He paints them as fun and funny; he describes their quirks and the games they play together. He would truly have loved to be the oldest in a family of ten, but I'm glad he at least had two babies to call his own.

He's nearly 11 and he is so very much himself. He is super smart and super organized and we've never seen a piece of homework from him since he started school. He's sweet and thoughtful and loves planning ahead to make things for others. He never lets a holiday go by without making gifts for the whole family and anyone else we might be seeing at the time, hiding them away in his backpack to surprise all the recipients at the right time in the celebration. He's independent and fairly sure he's ready for college, but he also runs back to give me a hug whenever he's leaving a place where I am. He is going to be a national geographic explorer and/or national park ranger when he grows up.

He loves to run and play tag. He still wants to climb on everything. He is very close to James and their Sunday night chats span an incredibly wide range of topics. He loves his friends, arts and crafts, swimming, READING, playing games, talking without pausing for air, wearing bright colors, discussing the great tragedies of world history in great detail, and organizing his room. He has serious crushes. I found out yesterday that at our pool party he pulled one of our friend's daughters aside to tell her about his crush on her best friend and ask her advice on what he should do about it. This is quintessentially Landon. There was never a girls are icky stage and it's going to be entertaining to watch from the side.

Clairebear turns 8 on Monday. She wasn't even two when we moved here and I find her big kid status shocking at times. She continues to ADORE school and the pleasing of authority figures. She loves her friends and always wants them over at our house. Cora alternates between still being her baby, but increasingly being an equal partner in crime. She loves tiny things, gives elevated "treasure" status to the most random of objects, and prefer that nothing remain as part of a completed set. She is going to be a teacher when she grows up.

She has never been into dress-up but has always been very into her real clothes. She still asks for "new dresses" for all gift giving occasions and snuck on makeup the afternoon of our family pictures. (Makeup I rubbed off as soon as I noticed it when we got out of the car.) She has many fears but can be surprisingly brave and strong. Her favorite colors are pink and teal, her favorite book is whatever one she can read out loud to me, and her favorite food (and upcoming eagerly anticipated birthday dinner) is BBQ Quinoa Salad. She remains our snuggler and will ALWAYS be on a couch I am sitting on, preferably with six loveys and a fuzzy blanket.

Cora is precisely 4.5. She will "never" be "sebben" and our insistence that she'll have to be five and then six and THEN seven causes her much distress. She remains an intriguing mix of incredibly easy going and incredibly opinionated. She is rigid about certain activities. School is for "hard work" and she will not do any Montessori work that isn't the writings and worksheets her teacher prints off for her- no imaginative play for Cora, this is business. At recess, she tears up the playground, giggling and laughing and having the best time with her besties. Then it's back to the classroom where you had best not maintain eye contact and if you touch her work she will never, ever forgive you.

At home we do NOT do work. We play babies and kitchen and princesses. We brush our dolls hair and change their clothes and tell them "shh it's okay, mama's here now." She adores her friends and is going to marry her best friend Jojo. She is surprisingly strong and very athletic. She remains an exuberantly affectionate member of the pack and she always screams my name when I come up to the back door after work. We have double-paned windows, so I can't hear her, but I see her mouth open and yell "MAMA!!!" and her whole face light up in joy and I know that I am home indeed.

She loves flowers, the color pink, babies, all dogs and cats, her blankie, her brother and sister, my lap, maxi dresses, and wearing her sunglasses upside down always. She is incredibly skilled at getting out of doing what you asked her, but incredibly apologetic when you catch her at it. Landon and Claire remain her people, and while she knows she wields enormous power over them, she also truly loves them with her whole fierce little heart.

They are each so different. From each other, from us... they're increasingly themselves and you see those little flashes of adult Landon or adult Claire (and god help us, adult Cora; do NOT touch her work) and I'm reminded of what we'll have to look forward to when they're grown. But then they're back to needing hugs or band-aids or someone to brush their hair (not Landon) and I like where we are now.

And that's our crew in 2018. Our party pack. We travel well and often, react favorably in water, and all agree that queso is the best cheese (even the one of us who thinks he doesn't like cheese at all). We were all born in different cities but we like our current one very much.

2018 has had some challenges. Personal ones of varying types that took us by surprise along the way, but these are my people. I am myself with them in a way I'm not around anyone else. Being a parent, being a spouse, is a constant self improvement project and I've done a lot of improving this year.


Anyway, I love these pictures.

I liked the ice cream afterwards too.