Alone with Harper

Last week was a pretty big week for us. Mike had a business trip to DC, so I was planning to be alone with Harper for a whole 3 days. That may not seem like much, but it was the longest we’d ever be without dad, and it sounded really scary. Then Mike’s grandma passed away, and 3 days turned into a week. 

My first inclination was to panic. But it was the only situation that made sense at the time, so I accepted it. And it was so fascinating what changed during that week. It was like all the fears and doubts I had about my ability to take care of Harper slowly melted away. Even though I care for her every day there’s still a part of me deep down that thinks I either can’t do this or am not good at it. I don’t think I realized before that I was harboring all that. But as the week went on and I realized that I was doing just fine on my own, I relaxed. It was honestly one of the least stressful weeks since she was born. 

I had a pretty big load of orders to make, too. But since I had no one to help me out — in the evenings, especially — I sort of switched into a different mode where I knew I could only get tiny bits of work done here and there. I just didn’t stress about that. And the crazy thing is that I got all my orders done and with much less fretting than usual. So I’m trying to move forward with that new philosophy. I won’t push it when I’m just not able to get something finished.

I also don’t think I realized how much I had been needing some completely alone time. That was something I always had in bits and pieces before, but haven’t really had since Harper was born. I really enjoyed having a few evenings to myself after she went to sleep. I could read what I wanted, watch what I wanted, eat what I wanted. Of course I missed Mike, but think about how much alone time he got! We all need that, and it’s OK.

I know this post has become kind of a brain dump, but I just wanted to mention one other thing that became clear after last week. I think something that has been holding me back from truly being able to enjoy parenting is this constant feeling that we just need to get through this next challenge, weather the fill-in-the-blank (teething, growth spurt, cold) storm, and then everything will be better. But that’s not how it works. There will always be a next thing. And if you spend all your time looking ahead to some perfect time, you’ll never truly be present in your child’s life.

I know that once I accepted that concept, I felt so much closer to Harper and happier in this role. It’s like that wonderful roller coaster metaphor in the movie “Parenthood” (one of my faves). This is a roller coaster and it’s truly nuts sometimes. But you have to get on board to enjoy the ride. You have to tilt your head back and take in all the gut-dropping slides. The last couple days with a feverish baby have brought that home, for sure. But I think I appreciate her in ways I never have before. Seeing her finally master mobility last week made me so proud. I instantly had these visions of her wobbling across a stage in a tutu or kicking a soccer ball into a net someday. I finally get what that feels like. It feels pretty amazing.

Anniversary date night

I’ve been meaning to talk about our anniversary (Sept. 18) for a while, but things have been crazy with craft show prep, so I’m just getting around to it. We decided that instead of giving each other gifts, we would gift ourselves a night out at a fancier-than-usual restaurant.

We booked a babysitter (um, prices have gone up since my babysitting days!) and started our night at our favorite bar, the Hotsy Totsy Club.

It has yummy mixed drinks and retro decor. The crowd is a mixed bag, and usually there’s at least one dog. I love it.

Then we drove to Rockridge and had dinner at Wood Tavern. I’d read good things about this restaurant, but I always try to temper my expectations, especially around service. Fortunately, this place was excellent. I only have one crappy iPhone photo of the food, but it was so, so good.

We had roasted Brussels sprouts and I think a corn chowder, which was more like a bisque. Then Mike had the halibut and I had an enormous pork chop. It was cooked to perfection and topped with a sauce that also included our favorite padron peppers. Apparently those are becoming a thing at bay area restaurants.

I don’t normally have more than one drink, but since it was a special occasion I also tried their “badass sidecar.” It was good enough to deserve the name.

Service was a little slow, but otherwise attentive and friendly. I would definitely go there again, and I’d like to try the restaurant next door, Southie. We also discovered another arm of the Belgian beer bar, the Trappist, down the street.

One thing that makes me sad about living here is that I don’t have the money to patronize these cool places all the time. But we get to them when we can!

One year ago…

I won’t be here to blog on my anniversary (Sept. 18) because Mike is taking me on a surprise getaway for the weekend (!!), but I wanted to give you a little look back at what was, in my totally biased opinion, the greatest wedding of all time.

Whenever I look at the pictures, I just have to smile at the total expressions of joy on people’s faces that day. Everyone looks like they are having so much fun, and that was the whole point.

Planning a wedding and living a marriage are two totally different animals. I feel lucky to be with someone who loves me for exactly the person I am, and who supports me in all the crazy decisions I make in my life.

So just for fun, here is a ridiculous number of my favorite photos from the wedding. A few of them I’ve never posted before. But just so you feel like you’re getting something new, I’ve made them BIGGER. Enjoy!

All photos by Joe and Libby Crimmings.

Bridal shower – success!

Yesterday I had my bridal shower in Lawrence. We asked my Aunt Lark to take charge of the food preparation, as she is a phenomenal cook and hostess. She agreed to make Italian food (inspired by “Eat, Pray, Love”, which is about to come out in movie form).

On the menu:

•Antipasto tray
•Caprese salad, with my heirloom tomatoes

•Sangria
•Pasta primavera with roasted veggies and pesto
•Greens salad with walnuts and shaved parmesan cheese, fig vinaigrette

•And everyone’s favorite part, rustic nectarine galettes

!!!

My sister was the master pastry roller.

My mom did a fabulous job with decorations.

She found several vintage items, including the wedding bells,

and a headpiece for the ceramic dog.

Poor Charlotte, we made her wear a garter the whole time.

The only fail was the paper flowers.

Though they are adorable, they were waaay overly complicated to put together. And when I finally got four of them together, they kept coming apart because the double sided tape didn’t stick.

Next time, tissue paper poufs.

I realized that I didn’t take any photos of people! I must have been too busy eating and socializing.

We played one game (How well do you know Cara?), which my best friend Erin won.

Then I asked for marriage advice. I’m soaking it up lately.

Some pearls:

• The times when you least want to talk are the times you most need to.
• Don’t be obsessed with winning the argument. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
• You have to be responsible for your own happiness. Of course you want to make each other happy, but you can’t depend on someone else for your happiness.
• Make your family a priority

I hear over and over that laughter is so important, as is the friendship at the center of your relationship.

And very appropriately, a friend sent me this quote from Liz Gilbert (author of “Eat, Pray, Love”) from her latest book:

“Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves.”

Well said.

Four years

“Either I’m really sleepy, or the bobblehead on this desk is spontaneously nodding at me.”

That’s how it all started.

Almost five years ago now I had taken Mike’s job when he moved to Pittsburg. A few months later when he returned in a different job, we talked every once in a while, but still hadn’t really connected.

Then one morning at work that message popped up in my inbox. I wasn’t expecting Mike to even be there, as he worked 4-midnight most days. But he was doing a special daytime shift across the room where I couldn’t see him. And for some reason, he decided to e-mail me. Boredom, I suspect. And curiosity.

I already felt an attraction, so this message was a step in the right direction for me.

“If it starts to talk, run…” I replied.

Four messages later, we had a date.

Four years later we’re still together. We’ve outlasted our previous relationship lengths, but that’s not really the point. Getting to this point was more difficult than I ever believed it would be. Full of challenges beyond our control, and some of our own doing. But it still feels good, and still feels right.

It doesn’t surprise me AT ALL that the night we were supposed to celebrate our anniversary by going to Iowa City for a concert, Iowa City was under feet of water and Iowa was in full-on disaster mode. I don’t think either one of us was in a celebrating mood at that point.

So we did what we have learned to do so well — roll with it. We decided on dinner at a new local restaurant instead. It was fabulous and we brought out our inner foodie geeks to examine each course. By the end of dinner, rain gave way to a rainbow framing the Capitol.

No one really writes love letters anymore, but I did save all the emails from our first week together. That’s probably the real reason I remember what day it was (the time stamps). Looking back it seems insane that by our second date we felt like a couple and by the second week we were dropping the L word. But I guess you feel what you feel when you feel it. Others have told me similar stories.

What we have now is much deeper, a respect we have for each other based on all we’ve been through together. When you find yourself running to the pharmacy because your partner has unexplainable hiccups or yanking gobs of their hair out of a clogged tub, you realize that the best part about being in love isn’t the giddiness, but knowing that someone would actually do that for you.

So, here’s to four years of adventures in love, and lots more to come.

On single motherhood (and no, this isn’t about me)

I am a freak for documentaries — so I’ve put as many as I can possibly find into my Netflix queue. This week “And Baby Makes Two” came. It was made about 10 years ago in New York, and it’s about a group of women who decided that they wanted to have children, even though they didn’t have a spouse or partner.

Some of them had focused on their careers during their child-bearing years or just hadn’t found a spouse, and felt that time was running out for them to raise a child. One woman was widowed. Some of them were having IVF, others realized their bodies weren’t going to produce children anymore, so they adopted.

I found the whole thing really fascinating. And even though I’m not in that situation, in some way I felt like I could understand them. Something about being a woman, and knowing that you are able to do such an incredible thing as giving birth, makes you feel like you should. But I think what these women were really searching for was a sense of family. Sure, they all had parents and siblings and cousins, but they were missing out on the closeness and intimacy of an immediate family.

One interesting part was that this group of women, as they spent time together going to birthing classes or welcoming others as they came home to the airport with a newly adopted baby, they really became family to each other.

The film crew checked in with them a few years later. The women all said that motherhood had turned out to be much harder than they realized, and certainly harder alone. But I don’t think any of them would go back and change what they did.

So here’s the question — if you found yourself in your late 30s or early 40s, single and with no children, would you consider having one on your own? Is that pathetic? Is it human nature? Is it selfish and hurtful to the child? Or is it just another form of family?

They had Gloria Steinem comment that our culture seems to approve of a single mother when she’s been victimized — the baby’s father left her, or she was widowed or divorced. But for her to be in control of the decision is very controversial.

What bothers me is not the idea of a child growing up with one parent, but the idea that the child doesn’t know who its father is, or doesn’t have a “normal” relationship with him. I think that’s somewhat confusing. Although, is that any worse than a situation where a child doesn’t know its father because he left?

Some of my friends were discussing this article about how Alice Walker’s daughter doesn’t have a relationship with her feminist mother because they disagreed so much on the topic of motherhood. Walker (despite being a mother herself) hates the idea of it, and basically disowned her daughter when she announced she was pregnant. The daughter felt that motherhood was something to be proud of, and that she missed out on a great deal of her childhood having an absent mother.

First of all, I don’t think motherhood and feminism have to be two separate things, by any means. That’s just nutty. But I do think women have to ask themselves, if I have kids, what’s gonna give? I believe you can have a lot, but you can’t have it all. A partner who shares in everything certainly makes it easier for you to balance career and family. But I look at my schedule now and can barely find time for myself. How would I stay sane with all that plus kids?

It’s just like being in a relationship. At some point, you can only be so selfish. And that’s not being unfeminist, it’s being realistic. If you wanted to have a dog or a business, you’d have to give up some things, too.

The other question this brings up, and it’s a big one, is do we need to have kids at all? Just because we can, does that mean we should? Bringing another person into this world, a very tough world that can barely handle the residents it has, is a big responsibility.

And I was talking to my best friend about this — at our age, the idea does start to affect our relationships. If we didn’t feel we had a limited amount of time to decide to have kids, we wouldn’t feel this sense of urgency that often pressurizes our relationships. It makes us look at ourselves and go, Did I really mean that? Why is XX such a big deal to me?

Not too long ago I interviewed a woman who told me she didn’t want to have kids for the longest time. And then, nature gave her a little push. At the time I talked to her she had a two-year-old and 7-week-old twins. An exhausting responsibility, I would imagine. But she sounded content. Like it was hard, and kind of ridiculous sometimes, but it just felt like the right thing for her to be doing. And I guess that’s what it comes down to. Do you feel in your heart that it’s the right thing for you to do?

It didn’t take me a whole lifetime to figure out that family was more important than all the bullshit we put up with in other parts of our lives. As women, if we want our family to grow, is that so bad?

Realizing love isn’t enough

As much as I’ve always been independent and always wanted to figure things out for myself, I’ve also always been a lover, a romantic, a little too emotional for my own good. It pains me to say that, but it’s true. In high school, long before I figured out most of the guys I had crushes on were douchebags, nothing made me more excited than the thought of getting their attention. Since I never actually had the guy I wanted, I figured that once I did, everything would be okay.

And I pretty much carried that attitude through college, too. Even as I learned more about myself and what I wanted, I still believed that once you found the right person, your happiness would be pretty much sealed. All you would have to do is meet that person and get together, and the force of your connection would carry you through.

Man was that a load of crap.

I am unbelievably lucky to have found my person when I did. I found someone who I connected with instantly (well, five years and instantly), and we had all those five-hour, me-too! conversations, the sexual tension, the feeling of sureness. It’s an incredible feeling.

But what it took me four more years to realize, what I honestly did not get until I was 27, is that relationships are work. Falling in love, feeling sure is just the beginning of your journey. You will be tested time and time again, only it won’t be about your love or your attraction. It will be about your patience, your selflessness, your communication skills. Your ability to watch “Mythbusters” hours on end. You will have to learn for yourself what is asking for what you need and what is meeting the other person halfway. It’s hard, it’s really hard. I’ve fought myself so many times, wondering if I would be strong enough to give up a job so that Mike could satisfy a dream. Could I not buy something I wanted so that we could save for something important? Could I stop being just me and be us? But still be me?

I didn’t realize I would be tested so quickly and so intensely in our relationship, but I’m grateful for it now. We spent almost a year apart. A year! All those nights we could have been growing apart we chose to grow together, and that means a lot to me. Who knew we’d be looking at a layoff, a major surgery, a rescued dog that needed more that we were prepared to give? Life happens.

At some point, when we’d made it through all of that and could breathe again, I realized that love was never enough to get us here. We got here because we finally decided we’d found someone worth all that trouble, and we stuck around for it.

I wish I could go back and tell high school me that passion is important, but it isn’t what will save you at the end of the day. It’s commitment and faith and maturity and selflessness on top of love that carry you through a relationship. It’s not the person that’s hot for you that matters; it’s the person that will throw himself in front of a bus for you.

When I think about my grandmother shampooing my grandfather’s hair in the sink or riding the bus everyday to be with him at the nursing home, to fight for him when he couldn’t, I understand why they made it through 55 years of marriage. They knew that this love story would not have a fairy tale ending, but that they would get through it anyway.

I don’t know how we will make it through the hardest days, but I know that we are here and we want to try. We are lovers and then some. We will do this thing.