I’m in love

Summer crashes in waves around us, cool mornings rising into bone-baking heat, quiet nights shaking into riotous days, weeks of unstructured play and family camping shifting into time-demarked camps and faux school.

And I am in love with the season.

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The amazing benefit to having Seasonal Affective Disorder is that summers are downright manic. So while I spend winters in front of a lightbox, forcing exercise, and wearing bright colors to make it through, from May to August I stockpile joy. I’m cramming all the sunshine I can into my cells. So I don’t forget what good feels like.

I watch my children slurp and mangle the melon my grandmother taught us was the single best treat ever grown. Canary yellow rind, orange and green flesh, and fragrant, nectar-flavored flesh not too firm and not too soft. She insisted on calling it Juan Canary long after marketers decided it would sell better with just the word Canary. And from the May-or-June moment I spy it in stores until the moment my children toss the rind gleefully into the compost bucket and grab more, running past me and out the backdoor in our pretend game of “don’t you dare eat another slice of melon, young man, that melon is the legacy of my grandmother and you may not have anymore, dagnabbit,” I am in love with the taste of nostalgia and happiness.

I wake each morning in the cool, already-loud house, stretching my gloriously midlife body and aching back into the eleven-year-old bed and listen to my children navigate what will be the most important relationship of their lives. And I know soon they’ll spend more time with peers than with a mother and brother. And I know my days of influence are waning even now, even while they’re as young as eight and four. I luxuriate in their giggles and teasing because it’s my morning. This time is mine. This place, this body, this family is mine. And none of it will last. Cool will become hot, slow will become quick, giggling will become screaming, achy will become strong and active. And I am in love with the day.

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Visitors from far and near have peopled our days with fun and love. My new camera has captured more than 2,000 images seemingly on its own, for I have been present, breathing in the wonder and the joy and the fights and the mess. Focus pulls fore and back, swallowing mountains and lakes and trees and flowers, always somehow capturing two wild little boys exploring, yelling, learning, laughing. And reading. I photograph them reading because whether they read together or apart, their bodies are still for a moment while their minds race. I am in love with the flux, and I get weak-kneed at the joy of photographing our oscillations.

We went camping as a family and learned that our new, separation-borne calm kindness extends to family gatherings. So we’re doing well as a family that lives in different houses and as a family that takes trips together. And they’re doing well as three guys who develop their own rules and boundaries and rhythms. Once we returned to the house we still share but don’t really, I spent time with a friend, relaxed into myself in the way that work, run, eat, work, sleep, and more work makes parents feel like regular people who can turn off their ears and attention and fetching arms for a while. I am in love with having a self.

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It has been three months since the boys’ father and I decided we have to change a situation that brought out our worst. It’s been two months since he moved into an apartment and we thoughtfully began working out the logistics of getting us both as much time as possible with the kids. I’m up late every night researching and drafting and emailing to hammer out logistics. And I’ll be honest: I don’t like this part at all. Disentangling is a pain in the heart and in the neck. But then I make lunches and bake muffins and work on deadline and wash off my new fancy-pants blush. It’s all going to be okay. Because the days are full of play and photography and mountains and lakes and family and friends and beach and music.

Oh, the music.

Since the house lost one resident, I have been playing music almost non-stop. Old favorites and new discoveries, I have a need for the creative spark and emotional salve that music offers. Two weeks before we decided to change our marriage, I asked the googles for help finding some new music based on my preferences. I blindly bought two CDs, which is something that old people do, usually with a pang of nostalgia that they can’t go to a record store and debate between a tape and vinyl. The CDs languished, unheard, on my desk until I had to send that desk, empty, to its new home. I shifted all my work paraphernalia and personal treasures onto an underused table and nestled it into a corner recently made empty in the bedroom. And I played the first CD.

I haven’t stopped playing it for two months. Both my computer and car play the same CD on a loop. I don’t know why this acoustic-guitar songwriting duo has so captivated me. But only one CD into this new relationship with two younger men, I am in love.

Enjoy your summer. Eat many strawberries and nectarines, splash in some sort of water, photograph those you love, and perhaps invest in a new blush. Just see what happens.

And try some Juan Canary melon.

It tastes like love.

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Shell of the person she once was

Everyone knows children change you. But in my case, I’m ruined. Ruined, I tell you!

Wanna know eight ways in which I am totally wrecked now that I have kids?

8. I can’t do just one thing at a time.
It’s simply not possible any more to just read or cook or go to the bathroom. I have to run over mental to-do lists and gauge how long I have before one of the children loses it while I try to read, and I must dodge in front of the baby to snatch whatever crumbs he finds while I try to cook food for the family plus several special requests for the older child. And the one time this week I went to the bathroom without holding someone, yelling at someone, listening carefully for someone, or preparing to go stop someone, I was done and washed in 30 seconds flat. I used to use the office restroom as my locked-door-where-nobody-can-see-me-close-my-eyes-and-breathe-for-ten-seconds haven. Now I hold my breath and rush through so often that force of habit made me miss this week’s only solo effort.

7. I can’t ignore bugs.
I’m not a bug person. I paid my brother to collect bugs for me when Biology class mandated a bug murder-and-display project. But now that I have children I can’t let a bug go by without stooping down to check it out, point out its details, and wonder about its diet. Sometimes Peanut asks about a bug, but more often I’m distracting one or both boys from all manner of childish b.s. and need to point them to something unusual. So critters who used to make me shudder are now members of my emergency “please-let-me-make-it-through-today-and-I’ll-give-money-to-local-entomologists” toolkit.

6. I have amazing biceps.
Two children with long-term separation anxiety issues equals 5 years of lifting heavy weights. They don’t fit with the rest of my body at all, so I’m freakishly distorted now (aside from the typical post-pregnancy distortions none of which have I escaped).

5. I can’t see a garbage truck without looking around excitedly for a child.
It doesn’t even matter if I’m away from my own children. When I see or hear a garbage truck I get all frenzied hoping I can make someone appreciate this amazing (huh?), unusual (what?), scintillating (who are you?) sight.

4. Slightly more embarrassing is my new, post-child reaction to fire engines.
I grin and wave and talk excitedly about the differences between a pumper, tiller rig, rear-mount aerial ladder, and snorkel truck. Last week I went for a walk without the boys and realized only when I saw the reactions from the firefighters that I was waving and smiling while completely alone.

3. Clients seem a lot more reasonable.
After negotiating cataclysms in which sandwiches were cut rather than left whole, adults removed shoes from a comfortably shod child, protein is poison and little bodies claim to need only sugar to survive, and waitstaff are tipped heavily for the mounds of food on the floor beneath high chairs, clients who want a quicker turnaround or want additional iterations seem downright fair even when they don’t say, “please.”

2. I can’t vacuum without warning the household, even if I’m alone.
Every child goes through vacuum issues. Mine adore the vacuum and fight over who gets to be held aloft to steer with me. If I ever turn on the vacuum without making sure its dance card is properly allocated, I don’t hear the end of it for days. So I warn the cat about the noise and ask who wants to help. Even if it’s 11:00pm and nobody around me cares.

Everything is different now, but the biggest change, the most significant reason I am ruined now that I’ve had children:

1. I cannot pass by even one festive decoration without stopping and grinning. I didn’t even know I had it in my heart that is two sizes too small, but I’m fascinated and entranced by twinkly lights. Glitter makes me giggle. Streamers lighten my day. And its all their fault. As infants they made me look up. As toddlers they made me explain why. And as adults, they’re gonna pay.

Because I’m wrecked. They’ve ruined me.

Ode to Six Months

Oh, how I love this age.

The excitement of being able to follow a pointing finger. The thrill of having clean sheets flapped over your delicious little head. The shock of new flavors as you finally get to taste those things other people eat.

The sitting, the rocking on all fours trying to crawl, the babbling, the laughter, the unadulterated joy of bathtime, the more deliberate efforts at making needs known…and the cuteness. Oh, my the cuteness.

Ah, six months.

Even the hard bits are easy because this age is so wonderful. Six months was a welcome eye in the storm with Peanut that allowed me to appreciate him rather than constantly struggle to keep from drowning.

And Butter is just as delightful at six months, which reinforces how much I adore this age. He won’t play alone much, but he will sit on the kitchen floor and play with his dearest love—the metal colander—long enough for me to chop one vegetable. That’s more than I could chop for the first five months of his life. He doesn’t sleep well because he’s teething, but he’s awake a lot less than Peanut was through his teething year. Butter has such a temper, and its perfectly adorable because what he gets mad about, usually, is gravity. And what fixes is it cuddling me.

Sign me up, six months, for I’m willing to accept those terms.

Dear, sweet six months. No separation anxiety yet. No social frustrations yet. No struggle to individuate. Yet. No talking, no walking, no chasing the cat, no refusing to do what Mama asks, no hitting, no coloring the carpet, no whining, no demanding, no slamming doors. No nuances. Six months is just adorable, cooing, babbling, drooling, nuzzling infant perfection.

Gotta go. Teething means he’s up every hour all night the past two nights. Isn’t that adorable?