The Princess and the Pea

Our trip was a success. The boys were stellar for Grandma and Grandpa. Pumpkin managed to not take his first steps while I was away. We ate. We drank. We walked. We talked. We saw friends. We ate and drank some more. For the first time, in a long time, I heard myself think.

Then, somewhere on H Street during day two, I found my stride. The hard concrete met my steps with familiar purpose. A part of me I haven’t seen in awhile snuck up around a corner and clasped my gloved hand. She was completely familiar and unchanged. She led me down side streets of thought I haven’t had the time, quiet or guts to travel down myself in a long, long time. I realized that I missed her.
And, *GULP* that I miss work.
My kids fill me up in places I didn’t know I had. I love that I have the opportunity to stay home with them and experience their firsts, explore their worlds and get to know them in a very personal way. But (and it’s taken me four years to get to this but), just like that infamous princess could not sleep on a stack of super soft mattresses because of a teeny, tiny, hard pea at the bottom, there is a part of me that my kids can’t fill, no matter how much I stack on top of it. Perhaps that pea has been present for awhile, starting as a small grain of sand the moment I started this blog and has been slowly growing, hardening and needling me. Perhaps I picked it up somewhere last week on memory lane as I remembered the best moments of my career.
While we walked the familiar streets of my professional life, I felt that little stone nagging in my shoe. It rattled around in my pocket. It settled in under my chair at dinner. Stowing away in my luggage, it came home with me.
What to do with my little pea now that I know it’s here? I’m not sure. I know I’m not ready to go back to work full time. I know that I have grown and changed a lot in the last few years. I know that I have gained a different sort of confidence about my skills, my priorities and the value of my time. I know that I have a lot of work to do before getting back to work.
Knowing that my little pea is here, however, has allowed me to take it out and roll its hard, cool sphere in my palm. The pea is no longer the nagging enemy in my shoe, but a beautiful opportunity.
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I Asked For It

Every Christmas, birthday, Mother’s Day or anniversary, I answer the hubby’s gift inquiries with the same stock answer: “I want a vacation!”

Friday night at our most fantabulous date night ever (seriously, Atlanta, if you want a fantastic date night, check out the chef’s table at the Four Season’s Park 75. Eight courses, wine pairings, chatting with the chefs, insanely great service. Call now and make your reservations. You can thank me later.), the hubby presented me with an early birthday gift. He had organized a dual trip – a trip for me and a trip for us.
Saturday morning, I will board a plane for Raleigh and spend the day and night with my sister helping her register for baby and planning a shower. Sunday, the hubby will bring the kids up where we’ll deposit our children into Grandma and Grandpa’s care and head to DC until Thursday.
I know, I know. DC in January. But DC was our grown-up home. We spent the early years of our marriage there, disposing of our income at nice restaurants, spending afternoons in front of Monets, wandering through shops with steaming cups of coffee. The fact that the hubby knew to give me that is almost more impressive than the coordinating of the child care and girl time with my sister.
Yet somehow, here I sit trying to make lists of things to pack for me and the kids, terrified. We have left Peanut before, but haven’t left both boys. I’m not even sure if that’s what I’m nervous about. I know it’s important for the hubby and I to have time together. I know it’s important for the boys to have time without us. I will be able to sleep in, see friends, visit my Monet, enjoy some of our favorite restaurants, relax.
Motherhood is so pervasive. Once you have children, you are forever a mother. There is no going back. And that is a wonderful, wonderful thing. The only difficulty is when faced with time to spend with the non-mom-me, I’m worried I won’t know who she is anymore. Is she still fun? Can she still participate in an intelligent conversation? Can she still pack a pair of heels and spend a day in them? Can she eat in a leisurely manner instead of throwing down her lunch before someone melts down?
Maybe I should be more excited than nervous. After all, meeting new people is one of most interesting parts of travel – I just never thought I would be one of them.

It’s Over

I was lucky enough to not have trouble nursing either of my kids. They both took to it easily, few painful side effects (other than stretching my poor little Bs to Fs (seriously, Fs!)), and both boys thrived. When Pumpkin proved allergic to milk based formula when we attempted a bit of supplementation, I was bummed by the inconvenience, but wasn’t too worried since everything else was, um, flowing.

As we delayed introducing milk products for fear of Pumpkin’s reaction, I clung to nursing even as his first birthday came and went. The doctor assured me I needn’t feel guilted into nursing, there were other ways to provide my little dude with the nutrients he needed during this transition period. Easier said than done. I most definitely felt guilted into it when Pumpkin’s only other liquid was water. So I kept going, even if it was just twice a day. And honestly, I wasn’t ready to give it up. Our days are so busy, that it was nice to have that quiet time, to have those moments when Pumpkin needed me with a primal desire that no one else could fulfill. Maybe it was selfish, but he didn’t seem ready to give it up either.
Until he was. And I kept attempting to hold onto that pre-bedtime feeding. It was shorter and shorter every night. Friday night, we went out for dinner and decided that would be it. Our sitter put the baby down, obviously without a feeding, and I decided I would not try to nurse him again.
And the little guy hasn’t noticed. Part of me is overjoyed that weaning was so successful. The other part of me is a little insulted that he’s taken this step away from me so unceremoniously. But that’s what we do as mothers, isn’t it? We nurture them, provide for them and raise them to be independent and to take those steps without us.
So why does it feel so hard and a little sad?

Some Days the Stars Align

Lately, taking Peanut to a public shopping venue has been more than this mama can handle. The grocery store typically involves hands swiping items off the shelves and into the cart when I’m trying to find the right product or bargain. With the behemoth race car carts built for two kids (please oh please someone at Publix read this and give me a better, more maneuverable cart) taking up most of an aisle as it is, I can’t really avoid having the shelves out of his reach. Oh, and did I mention that said shopping cart built for two leaves my boys in entirely too close proximity for the surreptitious bop and bonk? Target, where the carts built for two aren’t quite amenable to my 14 month old, typically involves me chasing after Peanut, fussing for him to stay near the cart. I mean it, stay where YOU CAN SEE MOMMY!

During the holiday rush and with school out, these trips have been painfully unavoidable.
This past weekend, the hubby and I braved a trip to IKEA with the boys. Part of my new year’s reorganization requires new storage in the kitchen and a possible new book shelf. The only thing to make this trip bearable was IKEA’s fabulous child play area – toys, ball pits, walls far away from breakable items, responsible staff. As a result, we were able to browse at a leisurely pace, finish sentences while discussing options and enjoy our shopping experience.
After picking Peanut up from 45 minutes of play time, we hit up the IKEA cafeteria (hello – lunch for four for $13.00!). A mom and her grown daughter were eating across the way from us and the mother approached us as they were leaving.
She leaned in close and said that we had the most well behaved children she and her daughter had ever seen. PAUSE. Wait. What? Really, she went on, they were absolutely delightful to watch during lunch and I must be a great mom.
Huh?
Some days, I suppose, the stars align and your children behave at just the right moment and just the right person happens to notice and says just the right thing to remind you that maybe you aren’t so bad at this mothering thing after all.
Thank you, mysterious IKEA lady. You have no idea how much your random comments of kindness mean to me.
Now, please, just don’t go to Publix.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Christmas has been crazy. The boys had a great time with all their family, as did we. There was Santa excitement, five inches of snow (in NC!), visits with cousins, toys, toys, Christmas cookies, and more toys.

Whew.
Christmas was all about the kids. As it should be. So when we received an invitation to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some adults, we jumped. Especially when it was an invitation that included the kids spending the night eliminating the need for a babysitter.
So, New Year’s Eve night, we watched our kids play, ate some yummy take out and managed to get a four year old boy and three year old girl to sleep in the same room (by 9:30pm – oh yeah, we totally earned parents of the year JUST under the wire!) as well as two infant-toddlers to bed. Then something happened. The bubbly was opened. The laughter began. And for a few hours, we were just two couples ringing in the new year. Granted, I haven’t been to bed that late in a long time and when Pumpkin woke up at 4am a mere hour and a half after I had dropped off, I was back to reality.
During the remainder of the holiday weekend, we have continued to dig out from Christmas craziness, thanks in large part to my let no closet, shelf and cabinet go unorganized mantra to make room for all the new toys. The fridge has been stocked with “regular” food and snacks. The tree is by the curb. The bubbly buzz long gone and a list of 2011 goals is starting to formulate in the journal by my bed.
One of the top items, like every year, is to make the non-mom-me a priority. Thanks to our lovely friends, I think I’m off to a good start.
Next on the list, wipe off the dust that’s collected on some of those heels in my closet and take them for a walk outside. Date night this coming Friday should take care of that – for one pair, at least.