The Year I Was 31

Me, on the day I turned 31. Taking Fae to the doctor for her hand foot and mouth. Remember that?

This year I started flossing more than I have ever flossed ever in my life. I don’t know why it is such a hated task, but it is a hated task and I have dragged my feet for 31 years…. WELL NO LONGER.

What else happened to me this year? This year was the first year since 2013 that I was not pregnant nor was I nursing. I just did the math on that and yes, that is true. Pregnant at 27, nursing at 28, pregnant at 29, nursing at 30. 31 = not pregnant, not nursing!

The day after I turned 31, we took our first and only full family trip on a plane! To Miami!

We rented a van, stayed in a hotel on the beach, swam in the ocean, hung out with family, the babies were loved on, and I held a baby alligator!

I do try to be mindful of challenging activities and adventures that scare me. Even if I have less time to do stuff like that, I want to always try. Alligator-Check!

The summer involved lots of celebrations for Claire’s upcoming wedding, lots of get togethers with babies, Fae’s baptism and first birthday! For me that meant party planning, outfit finding, and lots of very long email chains with many many details.

It was a spring and summer of house hunting which was one of the most challenging experiences of my adulthood. It was stressful and emotional and tested all of my “sharing my life with another person” limits. It was 6 months of compromise and arguments and hope and disappointments and meetings and viewings and debate. I spent the majority of the time super annoyed by Kamel, super grateful for our agent Alicia, and completely oxygen deprived from holding my breath for so long. I think Kamel spent the majority of that time completely in love with me, obviously.

And then we bought a house.

We closed at the very end of August and that exact weekend was Claire’s bachelorette party! That I was in charge of planning alongside Maris! So, still covered in paint I hauled my butt downtown to get the party started.

Some of my most fulfilling moments this year have been surrounded by women. Some of the most at peace moments. The times where I feel the most solid. I am so lucky.

It’s really difficult for me to make these birthday posts about MY year and MY growth and not everyone I know’s year, my children’s year, my marriage’s year. It’s hard to remember that along with all of these events there I was … growing and being and experiencing and reacting and feeling.

I am not where I want to be as a human person yet. But I am much closer than I ever have been. I really love who I am, but I want more for me. More compassion, more kindness, more patience, less neediness, more balance. More calm. I’m working on it. Always.

This year I got a legit home office.

With the first desktop I have EVER OWNED AS MINE. The last desktop I had was our family computer when I was in high school! Also my office doesn’t look like that anymore. It has a ton of crap in it. Some to cut down on the echo + sound panels all over the walls, and other crap just because.

Then Claire got married!!!

It was the danciest wedding ever! So fun!

Then Kamel had surgery and that was really hard and upsetting.

It was so incredibly difficult and scary seeing him so vulnerable, and it wasn’t even THAT bad. It was a long recovery, but it wasn’t like he got into an accident or something. So maybe that was just the warm up to the other “in sickness and in health” shit that will inevitably befall us.

And then Margaret and Jeff got married and I went to that without Kamel because his surgery healing was way more intense than we had been lead to believe.

And it was so beautiful and so fun and such amazing food. I’m so proud of both of them.

And then like a week later Kamel, my dad, and I went to Kamel’s cousin Carlos’s wedding outside Mexico City!

It was the year of weddings that were not my own and it was super beautiful.

Trump was elected president and there will forever be a before and after. For me it would be downplaying it beyond reason to say it was a “wake up call.” I actually find that to be incredibly condescending. It created a space for me where I will never stop being angry. The world is a hostile place and something fell off the shelf inside me, to quote Zora Neale Hurston. There is a darkness inside me. Sometimes it fuels me and sometimes it causes me great despair. I am disappointed by the world and its suffering. I am disappointed by the smallness of humankind. By the pettiness. And I have been forsaken by people who hold up mothers as the ideal but so easily throw away women. We are so easily thrown away. I will not be someone’s garbage and I will not allow anyone else to be either.

November also brought the baptism of my goddaughter, Ellen!

Then we spent Thanksgiving in Canada with Maris.

I am so grateful to have a rich and diverse and loving family. People who willingly encourage our chaotic mini families to collide. We are really lucky.

After really putting a hold on travel because we were saving for a house, this last year we splurged on trips. After the election I immediately started planning to march in DC, a city I had never been until January. I am very lucky to have landed Sarah’s couch and to have so many fantastic friends in the DC area who held my hand through the march and squeezed me when tears fell down my face at seeing the immense crowds of people just like me, who had been hurting for months just like me, who were scared just like me.

In February, Kamel and I took a solo trip to Miami to visit our new niece LOLA! We stayed with my SILs, Regina and Lara, and it was so NICE to be there without the kids. I actually really love traveling with the kids, but it is also cumbersome and a lot of work. It was really important to us to be flexible while visiting the newest addition to the family. I didn’t want it to be about our kids (it is ALWAYS about our kids) and I wanted it to be about spending time with Kamel’s sisters and parents and baby Lolita!

I also got to see MANATEES for the first time! They surrounded us while we were in a kayak paddling around and it was AMAZING!!

And! Regina gifted me three more tattoos while I was there. Here are two of the new ones (and two of the usual ones).

In March we started a very unplanned renovation project when our dishwasher leaked all through our floors and into our crawl space. And is still an ongoing journey even today! Weee! (But you know what? It has helped make this home feel more OURS and that has been a major boon.)

March was also all about Gabe’s birthday!

And, of course, Vegas!

And now here we are. That was a year in the life of me. Not to mention: Christmas, the millions and millions of weekend activities and hours spent entertaining the kids, the books I have finally started reading again in the last 4 months, and billions of sentences I have edited, approved, or rewritten for my job in educational publishing. This is also the year I turned my hair blonder! But I am now on the precipice of more hair changes. I am the most fulfilled I have ever been with the fewest amount of down time hours. I continue to feel overwhelmingly grateful.

32. Boom.

Vegas

A few weeks ago I went to Vegas with my best friends. A bunch of married ladies, three of us mothers. People who are busy, who are tired, who spend weekends in yoga pants under piles of laundry or just life. Piles of life.

And for a long weekend I ran away and remembered who I am without all of the other stuff. Without having to consider nap time or early morning wakeups. Without having to consider another person’s hunger or comfort. I wore big shoes and short dresses.

I stayed out by the pool all afternoon. I ate rich, amazing, adventurous foods and started dinner past my children’s bedtimes. I spent too much time on my hair and makeup. I crawled over VIP sections to sit on the back of a couch with two of my best friends spitting distance from Calvin Harris in the DJ Booth like we were 23 and had nowhere to be.

And it was just so fun and so freeing. And I’ve been trying to decide what I wanted to say about this trip and I think I’ve figured out two things.

First, I feel that there is an electricity in the air sometimes, an aura if you will, that tut tuts at women, mothers, wives, who go off on extravagant get-aways without their partners/children/blahblah. There is an “aww womp womp” thing that exists towards the left behind party. There is a “well, where do they get to go then?” like I must have to pay this freedom back in some way… right? Nothing is free.

But… that’s stupid. Partners who keep score are not good partners. Partners who aren’t supportive of escapes into the night are not good partners.

The second thing I’ve been thinking about is: Investment. I’m old(er) and tired(er) and the time I have is precious. It is important to choose, actively choose, how I want to spend that time. We hadn’t all gone somewhere together since 2009. Since before any of us got married. It’s important to invest in the stories of our friendships. It’s important to invest in the stories that we will retell for years to come.

It’s important to invest in who we are when no one is looking, in the late night dancing, and the dress up and the pool time, and the naps in the middle of the day like who are we? People without responsibilities?

It’s important to be that hot girl for a second, because the work of life is always there. It’s always there yelling at you and pulling you back into deadlines and chores and wiping snotty noses and alarm clocks and workouts. It’s important to plug your ears every once in a while, buy a 50 dollar dress that is made from some kind of stretchy terry cloth, and run out into the night.

March: America’s First Daughter, Stephanie Dray

Hello! This month has been so long. It always is because it is literally long with 31 days, but on top of that it’s the push up to spring that everyone needs and wants and needs and wants. So here we are! A month of reading! I bet you read more than 1 book this month, but I didn’t! So let’s get to it.

I really enjoyed America’s First Daughter. I was going to initially say that it was a gentle read. Even in its most tense moments, the most gasp-worthy, it was pleasant. And that is true! But then I hard-sobbed through the last three chapters. Is this the best book I’ve ever read? No. But is it a lovely foray into historical fiction? Yes!

I did find it particularly useful, during this time of political unrest paired with Hamilton FERVOR to read an intimate portrayal of the Jeffersons. The book is based on letters, so it feels very accurate as far as life events go. I had this naive epiphany moment about half way though where I realized the US has always been a mess, except for a handful of brief moments when we could all come together over a common goal. One of those moments was the Revolutionary War (And not everyone loved the direction we were taking). But not even 20 years after the war we were back to arguing and dueling and tearing down politicians over affairs and character smear campaigns. And though what’s happening right this second is pretty bad, it made me feel like this country is actually very resilient for all its fragility.

And though Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t agree or get along, it was nice to read something from the other side of the Hamilton love fest. It’s important to keep in mind that these men were all flawed people with big ideas. And the work that the women did, always there, always pushing, always behind the scenes, was immense. Without them things would be very very different.

Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, was a FORCE. And I am incredibly impressed with how much she accomplished in the face of so much death and so many BABIES. Holy god. She didn’t stop giving birth for like more than 20 years. Insane. And she still held down the fort during Jefferson’s presidency, she still managed the political aspirations of her husband, she still educated all of her kids.

I also thought the way the book handled slavery was really interesting. I was pretty uncomfortable with how I was reading it for the first half of the book. It seemed a little apologetic. But, because it was first person and because slavery becomes a main focus in the politics and the moral struggle of the characters, I felt like it was handled ok? I think it is probably controversial how they portray Sally Hemings and her devotion to Jefferson. I feel like even talking about any of this comes off so racist. This paragraph that I am writing, even. This topic is so fucked up and I truly don’t know how to read it or how to write it in historical fiction. So, you know, if anyone else has thoughts on this definitely let me know. I was conflicted and cringe-y most of the time.

I feel like most people are going to really like this book. But how did everyone else, especially in this political fraught time, read it? How did you feel about it? What stuck out?

For April we are reading Atwood!! Check out the full BIRL Book Club book list here. 

Falling

On Sunday I fell down the stairs while holding Fae for the second time. Two times I have slipped and fallen without any warning only to see my baby slide down my body and go tumbling down the stairs herself. It is absolutely horrific. It’s one of those things you think about happening in an “oh my god wouldn’t that be AWFUL?” way. And then it does. And here we are.

This is also probably the 5th time I’ve fallen down these stairs. And not because I’m being ridiculous. Not because I’m on my phone or running or doing anything other than WALKING down the STAIRS. It’s also not a feeling of, “oh no. I am going to fall. Oh look I am now falling. Oh shit.” No, it doesn’t happen that way. It’s like this: I am walking down the stairs thinking of where I’m going and the 5 billion things I have to do when I get there. SDHGKAJFSKLAJSKDGJ I’M FALLING OW SKDGJSKLJDTGSKL.

So when you think, “Oh, I’ll make sure to hold the baby if I were ever to fall.” No. That is not true. If I had the ability to think, “I am falling must hold baby,” I would do it! But I don’t. Because all that happens is I slip without feeling myself slip and then my body flails. I watch my daughter slide down my body or fall to the stairs and tumble down like a rag doll while I am also tumbling down and desperately trying to get my body to do what I want it to do which is save my daughter, but we’re both falling and I am screaming and it is HORRIBLE.

Thankfully aside from bruising myself, no one has ever had any injuries. But I am not want to risk the completely traumatic event happening again and again and again. (Granted I feel like it’s already happened like 5 times too many.) So, what do I do? They are carpeted stairs and I fall whether I am in socks or bare feet. Has anyone had this issue? At this point we will do anything, but I would prefer it not be super ugly or crap quality/annoyingly temporary. Help!

The Dishwasher Part 1

Remember when I talked about the bats in the attic? How we all have fears knocking on our doors that we turn the volume up on? We ignore them or leave them for another day. Home ownership has removed a few of those fears (will we be able to afford the next rent hike?), but has added new ones.

Like: Will our roof suddenly leak?

Like: Will we be able to afford the sudden expense of something failing?

Like: Infestations.

Like: What if I don’t know that something is wrong because I don’t know anything about anything and then it’s too late and we have a problem that is 3x what it should be because Lauren is stupid.

And then last week our dishwasher leaked. And we discovered this problem when Kamel went into the crawl space and there was water there. And water was leaking from above. Through the insulation. We discovered this at 8pm. The plumbers came the next day. And the day after that the restoration people.

(Thanks, dishwasher, you piece of shit.)

The day the restoration people came was Gabe’s birthday and we were supposed to have a family party at our house.

Except that, um, this was our kitchen:

I did not bake him a cake for the first time… ever. We moved the party to my parent’s party room in their condo, and when we got home from Gabe’s birthday shenans the restorers were still working. They had a 12 hour day ripping up 7 layers of floors. Surprise! No one ever removed old flooring before putting new ones down! which means new floor will be about an inch lower than it was before.

The fans in the kitchen were blowing 24 hours a day for two days and then fans in our crawl space were blowing 24 hours a day for 4 days. We have no cupboards on that side of the kitchen and our counter top is being held up by those pieces of wood you see.

We do most of our dishes in the bathroom sinks.

The insurance guy comes tomorrow but this is still going to cost us SURPRISE money. And take months to fix.

Just a few days before we discovered the leak I had booked, with the help of a lovely internet friend (Hi Bri!), a family vacation to San Diego for May. Our first family vacation with just our family since Gabe was 18 months old. But, because we try to be responsible adults whenever possible, we had to turn around and cancel it because…. see above.

The kitchen is tented off with plastic zipper doors on the two portal entrances. And we are trying to keep our cooking/eating footprint as small as possible. It has been a mild inconvenience at best, and at worst it is an absolute scramble. We can use the kitchen, but I have to keep the kids out of there (zipper door wins!) and that makes cooking dinner and solo parenting difficult when I can’t see them and they can’t see me. Even when the doors are unzipped.

So the first homeownership bad thing happened. A sudden kitchen remodel. Surprise! I wonder what will happen next…To Be Continued.

The Birthday Video – Gabe’s 4th Year

Every year we think for months about which song to assign the kids’ current year of life. This year the Gypsy Kings spoke to Gabe. 🙂

Gabe is Four

Gabriel is now a kid. That is the news of the day. He can reach the toaster while standing on the kitchen floor. He no longer wears pullups to bed. He pees standing up. He eats apples (!!) without cutting them up. He makes 1,000 fart and poop jokes a day. He tells me, “Moooom I’m just being FUNNY,” when I don’t get it. When I mom-it-up.

Gabriel is so easy to play with. I say, “Gabe do you want to play with me with your boat?” YES. YES HE DOES. And I let him lead a grand adventure about ghosts and witches and animals that die. Die die die. They always die. Terrible things are always befalling everyone. And hexes. So many hexes.

He is up to play any game I make up. He is up for it all.

“Ok, you have to try and keep the ball up in the air for as long as you can, but you can only hit it with one hand and you have to be sitting and you have to sit on the hand you’re not using.”

These are my rules. He makes sure we all follow them and take turns.

He loves and hide and seek. But he isn’t very good at concealing where he is hiding or even where he wants to hide. If it is my turn and he likes where I’ve just hidden, he will tell me, as I am walking away to count, that he is going to hide there too. We are trying to teach him the point of the game, but so far have not succeeded.

He whines. Oh god, the whining. He stomps his little feet and throws a mini tantrum when I tell him no. His whining makes me not want to give him anything ever in life.

His favorite characters are the bad guys. Always the bad guys. They are the most interesting, the most complicated, the most magical.

He likes to be carried, facing out, so he can fly like a bird. If he stops flapping he wants us to start to slowly drop him to the ground until he starts flapping again. He is heavy. This is hard. We indulge him.

His dad is his absolute best friend. On Monday mornings he is sad to say goodbye to his dad when he leaves for work or when we drive away, leaving Kamel to grab his coat and lock up before heading to the bus stop.

When Gabriel gets scared or hurt that is where I’m most needed. Any injustice? Mom. Sometimes when he tumbles off something I quickly say, “Gabriel! Are you ok?!” And he shrugs me off. “Stop saying that!” as he jumps back up. Sometimes when he startles himself I hover over him, giving him the wide eyed shocked face of “woah.” He looks up at me with initial concern until one of us starts to laugh. He will try and hide is smirk and say, “Stop it….” but the giggles are too much. “That was funny,” I say. He will mock fall over again as we both laugh.

Last week we were driving home from somewhere just before nap time and I didn’t want him to fall asleep in the car and truncate his actual nap. I looked back and his eyes were starting to close. I said “Gabriel, don’t fall asleep buddy, we’re almost home.” He looked at me and then turned his head to the side and with absolute defiance squeezed his eyes shut as hard as he could. It made me laugh so much. We were both laughing. He is a really funny kid.

He has also been hiding one of the loose bricks in the front of our house and driving Kamel mad about it. For a long time Kamel couldn’t figure out where the brick had gone and who had taken it. Then we found it around the side of the house and Kamel couldn’t stop talking about who could have possibly put it over there. (I continually said it was the kids, Kamel was not convinced.) Then one day Kamel caught Gabe in the act of re-hiding it. When he asked why he was doing it, Gabriel said “because I wanted you to think it was monsters!” while laughing. He is already playing tricks on us at barely 4 years old.

February: I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Sloane Crosley

Month two of the BIRL Book Club is now over! I read I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and I hate hate hate to admit this but I was… underwhelmed. I felt old and weathered reading it. I felt like a grumpy old lady, rolling her eyes, and thinking (against my very hip and aware will) “oh you just wait and see.” Oh my gosh I was so annoying, even to myself.

Here’s the thing. This book was published in 2008. Before the great recession. Before I graduated grad school only to flounder financially. Before entry level jobs were no longer falling from the sky in one’s chosen field. Before people lost their family home or had to go back to work at 70 because their retirement up and vanished.

This was also the height of the blog. The lifestyle blog was going strong. Everyone had quirky design tips. Everyone had slightly self-deprecating stories that made them feel unique and interesting. This was probably written before literally every single personal story archetype had been published on the internet.

I think I’m a solid 5 years too late reading this book to appreciate it.

I think I’m old and weathered and tired and when I spend my last moments of awake time reading about people in their early 20s it just annoys me that they are so self centered.

I did think some of the parts were funny though – and I did actually laugh out loud at a few. Especially the story about her first job. That was… ridiculous and horrifying and I enjoyed it immensely.

Have you read this book? Did you read it recently? Did you read it like 5 years ago? Am I just being a grumpy gus? What was your favorite part? Where did you eye roll so hard you thought maybe that was just your face now?

March is for America’s First Daughter and I am SOOOOOO excited for it!! I love historical fiction! Come read along with me!

Things, February

I mentioned to Kamel the other day, “Remember that time I had a blog?” Because… echo echo echo. Sorry about my lameness. We were traveling and then you know, the president is a dictator and every day our freedoms are chipped away at and the world is crumbling all around me. And I continue to feel more and more hopeless because it isn’t just the president it’s the whole GOP and no one actually cares about serving the people or making the government run better, it’s 100% about their own pocket book and the sweet sweet payout. House of Cards is real. And I don’t feel like I have any power.

So there’s that.

Other things… Oh! I’ve actually felt like this winter has flown by. It’s already lighter in the evenings and I didn’t feel oppressed by the darkness really at all. Except when the light was disappearing and I felt panic we would all turn into sad mole people. But it didn’t happen. Hooray!

I read this article last week about how family vacations are fantastic for your kids, how they build permanent happy memories that help them during hard times. So we’re booking a quick-ish trip to San Diego in the spring. I love family vacations. We haven’t had a family adventure vacation since Gabe was 18 months old. WHAT. Unacceptable. It’s practically child abuse. Is what I’m telling myself.

I went to my OBGYN recently for a checkup and we spent the first 5 minutes of the visit gushing over how we have the same topshop coat and how it makes us feel like badasses. It was the highlight of my day, and how many people can actually say that?

I thought after the holidays things would chill out, but there has been 0 chill to report. Travel (yay!) and social events (more yay!) have kept us running and running and running full steam ahead through our weekends. Plus trying to do things for the kids, like swim at the YMCA and explore new parks, take them to the aquarium, etc etc. Be good parents blahblah.

I miss having a calm mind that allows me to collect myself and to share here. Its so jumbled and stressed that even when I sit down to write something it all sounds dumb. But I miss you guys! And I love hearing from you! And just know that I’m working on it. 🙂

It Doesn’t Matter If People Like You

I’ve been chewing on something all week. While reading the comments of an article with a racially charged headline (about how black people don’t like white people, or “why I don’t like white people,” or “why I don’t trust white women” etc etc there have been many recently) I had this lightbulb moment.

It doesn’t actually matter if a minority person or group likes white people. It doesn’t matter if the entire race of people thinks I am the white she-devil. It is still necessary to stand up for human rights. It is still unacceptable for people to be murdered by police. They are not judge jury and executioner. It doesn’t matter if every member of the LGBTQ community calls me a breeder to my FACE. It is still important for them to have basic human rights, job protection, and marriage equality.

And it’s not like I don’t have feelings. It sucks to hear that people don’t trust white women. Because, Hi. Hello. White Woman Speaking. My gut reaction is always “No! Don’t feel that way!” But do people have to be my friends in order to fight for safety, for freedom, for equality? I would like to think that I could hate every single man on the planet and still have expectations that they stand the fuck up in the face of rape, sexual assault, and harassment. I mean, it won’t happen, who am I kidding? BUT I WOULD LIKE TO THINK.

So anyways… no one has to be liked or given a pat on the back to do the right thing. It seems so simple, and yet… seems to be a major hurdle for many.