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May 2016

For the bus stop parents, an explanation of my mood

Pretty sure the parents at the bus stop think I'm the most unpleasant person in the world. But by 7:57 each morning - the last possible minute we can leave for the bus stop - I am already DONE with my day. How many times can one remind her second grader that the field trip form is with her lunch box only to have that second grader totally ignore said forms by the lunch box? How many times can one endure the sorry excuse, "But I didn't have TIME to brush my hair!" And really, how many times can one say, "PUT ON YOUR SHOES!" before one keels over absolutely dead? 

And so, I am a big grouchy grump at the bus stop. Sorry, everyone. 

This weekend is our annual hang-out-with-college-friends-and-talk-about-our-lives weekend, aka our Couples Retreat (that just sounds so goofy, I don't know why, I keep trying to come up with another name for it.) We usually do this over Labor Day, but circumstances require we gather over Memorial Day weekend instead. Most years the week before the retreat is when Phillip and I have our most glorious and breathtaking arguments, hence a weekend of intense couples therapy with the people who know us best. (And thank God, right?) But this year we're not nearly as exhausted and done with each other as our typical end-of-August selves, and so for once I am not gearing up for Massive Character Building. This year I am merely wishing away every single minute until the moment I get to drop off the kids with my in-laws. They haven't been particularly terrible (the kids, not the in-laws, the in-laws are wonderful in every way) and I have a lot farther to go to reach the end of my rope, but I don't feel like I've had an adult conversation with my husband in weeks. I can't remember the last time we went out to dinner with friends and only had to think about ourselves. Sometimes I write things like that and hear judgy voices: "Why should you get to think only about yourselves?" "Who else gets to dump their kids with grandparents as much as you do?" "Oh, do you need a break? You do work so hard, what with your tough blogging schedule and daily coffee dates with your preschooler." 


In a bit I'll take Emma to preschool, then I'll come home and clean all the bathrooms, something I'm going to do only because the out of town friends are staying with us. Otherwise I might just let them go until mid-July when our new contractor guy starts the bathroom remodel. Did I tell you that part? That we found someone new? Who only becomes available right smack in the middle of summer vacation when everyone is home and going feral? IT'S GOING TO BE SO FUN!

Yeahhhhh I think we're going to quit this blog post while it can still win the award for most boring on the internet. I mainly wanted to jump on here and go, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR ABILITY TO DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I TELL YOU EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF YOUR LITTLE LIVES?!"

I've got that out of my system now, so thanks, have a lovely day yourselves. I will probably opt for a nap instead of bathrooms. (Oooh, the judgy voices are coming back.)

Tiger Dad, overidentification, future therapy - typical parenting blog post

I was glad I had a boy first. I had/have a lot of feelings about being The Oldest Girl in the family and I didn't want to assume my oldest was going to be like me and have all those same feelings. I didn't want to subconsciously attribute or assume things about my oldest. I didn't want to INFECT her. So I was glad I had a boy and I wouldn't have to worry about that stuff. 

But I think I've done it anyway. Especially because I think - at least, I used to think - Jack is a lot like me. In some ways he is. A friend of mine was asking what to get him for his birthday last week and I suggested a binder for organizing his Pokemon cards. "A binder?" she said dubiously. She printed out some Pokemon graphics and his name, slid them into the plastic cover of a binder she already had at home, and guess what present Jack wanted to look at in the car on the way home and take to Grandma's house the next day? Jack and me, we like to collect, categorize, label, and organize. We are introverts who need a lot of time on our own doing our alone things. We would rather die than misbehave at school and we think we know everything. (Although, is it really a matter of thinking you know everything when you really do know everything? I mean.) 

Probably the biggest place where I've assumed he's like me, and treated him accordingly - and am now suspecting I am wrong - is in the Being Good At Everything Department. Which isn't to say that we ARE good at everything. No, it's not actually being good at everything so much as cultivating the image of being good at everything. I mean, you don't fully come into this place of crazy until you are a high school senior being awarded Outstanding Female Student at the end of the year assembly and smiling for pictures while inwardly thinking you might die before you can escape to the land of Anonymous Average Student Who Could Flunk Romantic Lit And No One Would Care, ie: the ginormous state university. Wait, did I reveal too much? 

But it starts when you're little and everyone tells you how good you are at this and that and so mature and such a good example and always the helper and omg, what if you don't get 100% on the spelling test and no one loves you anymore? 

So I have made a point of telling Jack, "You don't have to do that." "You don't have to like that." "I am okay with you if that's not something you want to do." 

I am the OPPOSITE of a Tiger Mom. And I've done it on purpose. And especially with Jack, in whom I see so much of me. 

But then we started piano lessons. 

Jack, as we have observed and as we've been told by his teacher, has a lot of potential to be Quite Good at piano. Phillip and I, being people who think being Quite Good at the piano is something that will only be a wonderful fantastic positive in the rest of one's life, think this is excellent news. And while I have mostly left the teaching of piano to the piano teacher, Phillip has become a bit of a Tiger Dad about it. 

It's funny, because Phillip and I are hopeless wusses when it comes to discipline (I'm sure you're shocked), but not only does Phillip nag and nitpick and criticize and fuss and insist and drive our kids half insane, I am 100% behind him. I have found something that I am NOT okay with them not liking. At least not now. He's going to learn this and he's going to improve and if he still can't abide practicing piano when he's 18, he can quit and go to therapy like the rest of us. 

And as we've become more tiger-y about piano lessons, I'm becoming more aware of how things I've said to my kids, and Jack especially, I said out of fear or anxiety that they would end up with my... fear and anxiety. 

My junior year of high school I took trigonometry. And by then I knew I wasn't good at everything. Like trigonometry. I worked so hard, harder than I ever had at any school subject, and probably harder than I ever did at anything in college where I knew no one cared. And I STILL couldn't get an A. One day my teacher, who I loved, listened to me as I desperately asked her what I could do to improve. And she said, "You know, Maggie, maybe a B is the best you can do and that's okay." 

There are probably a lot of people who think that is a scandalous thing to say. I've told this story to some teachers and they all disapprove. But MY GOD that was the most freeing thing anyone had ever said to me. It was the best thing you could say to someone with my particular brand of crazy. I didn't hear, "You don't have to work so hard anymore because you're never going to get better," I heard, "Getting a B is not the worst thing in the world." I heard, "Maybe you DON'T have to be good at everything." I heard, "Maybe this just isn't your thing." 

(Trigonometry is SO NOT MY THING.) 

And because that mindset, that people only valued me for Being Good At Stuff, had so much to do with my early 20s anxiety breakdown, I really pay attention to how I talk to my kids about what THEY'RE good at. And what I expect from them and what we want them to do. I tell my kids over and over how much more I care that they are kind, generous, empathetic people than being smart and talented. I see how lit up Jack gets when we praise him for school work well done, and I purposefully counteract myself with praising something about his character too. Of COURSE I want them to be smart and "mature for their age" just like everyone said I was. But I am terrified that that's how they'll begin to identify themselves. Good kids who make everyone pleased and impressed. ACK

Just like I have to tell myself that God will not love me more if my pants size gets smaller, I am compelled to tell my kids that all the good stuff they do and how much other grown ups are pleased by them is not why I love them. 

And then I also have to remember THEY ARE NOT ME. 

I suspect Jack cares significantly less than I did about impressing people. I can tell from all the times he says, "Well, I'm just really not that INTERESTED" in whatever I'm trying to get him excited about. And if anything, our job as parents might be to knock his abundant self esteem down a notch. No need to fear Jack doesn't feel loved. (We were watching some PBS show about a piano prodigy and said, "Jack, if you work really hard you might able to do something like that!" and he said, "Well, I can kind of already do that." OOOOOOKAY.)

And as I sit here typing and listening to Phillip berate one of our children at the piano - "No, start over, come on, seriously?, again, start again, why is this so hard?" I feel a snicker coming on, not a tenderhearted urge to stop him. Because those kids WOULD play computer games all day if we let them and it appears that Molly just spent half an hour practicing the wrong song because... she's Molly. You guys, I think I DO have some unsympatheticness in me after all! 

Hopefully the right amount, and for the right things. And at the very least they'll take themselves to therapy for different reasons than I did. 




More cookies, less cake

Despite all odds, the best efforts of local government, and zero marketing, Katie and I still have a cookie company. And it is truly a cookie company now, as the only things we do are custom sugar cookies and French macarons. No more cakes, no more dessert tables, no more specialty cookies. It's funny that we're selling the two things we least like to eat, but those happen to be the two things people 1) want most and 2) are most profitable. Plus they're easy to store and transport and gone are the days I drive to a venue freaking out about a cake falling over in the back of my van. 

This weekend I delivered treats to our last wedding dessert table. This bride booked her date in January, before we'd made the Final We Don't Do That Anymore Decision. And then, because I am a moron, I scheduled Jack's birthday party for the exact same time. So while Phillip was managing a pool party, I was driving to a country club in a downpour with mini cupcakes, tartlets, macarons, cookies, and cream puffs, and barely made it back to the pool for the cake cutting. Let's not do that again. 

For a while we considered expanding. And what expanding looked like was bringing on a third person as a sort of Pastry Contractor, someone who could do the things we couldn't or wouldn't do, so that we could say yes to more orders and hopefully make a little bit more money. We planned to pay the pastry contractor a percentage of the items sold. I went back and talked to our kitchen owner, I started on the licensing application, I found a handful of potential contractors... but then... nope. It was weird, because not one person thought this was a bad idea. We had enough money to try it out and how else are you supposed to get bigger and do more? But it turns out neither of us really have the bandwidth to deal with anyone but ourselves (and honestly, we are enough for each other) and also, we're actually pretty happy with how things are. I mean, what if I actually started MARKETING our business instead of just sitting around waiting for people to call us? Enough people actually do call us, that maybe a bit of marketing effort might be all we need to kick it up a notch. We could work on finding a third or fourth person to help us during the holidays, when we know for sure we'll have more than we can handle. 

So that's what's new in the baking biz. I go back and forth about what I want to do, whether it's all worth it, what we're actually doing and why, but you've caught me in a Excited Committed moment. I just uploaded some new pictures to the site and Facebook and now I shall wait for the orders to roll in. (That's how it works, right? Facebook post = twelve orders for next weekend?)

Between that wedding order, another order for 8 dozen macarons, the week of Jack's Birthday-ness, Mother's Day, and the other multiple May events (I swear, half the grandkids in our family have May birthdays), I am WORN. OUT. I took a shower this morning, but am back in jammies (just the kind I don't sleep in, don't you have that category of clothes?) and I have grand plans for vacuuming, de-grossing the bathrooms, and scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees like a proper housewife. I bet I... load the dishwasher.

Birth day

We celebrated Jack's ninth birthday tonight, with Nai Nai and Ye Ye and friends-who-are-family, burgers and hot dogs and gin and tonics and contests involving the slide we installed when we built the deck stairs. Not a bad way to spend an evening. The sunshine and hosting distracted me from having a nine-year-old, also the gin-fueled conversation in which I established myself as the most #NeverTrump who ever Nevered. (My poor in-laws. "We don't like him either! Leave us alone!")

But now it's 8:40 and I just tucked in a nine-year-old who is most of the way through Prisoner of Azkaban and DUDE, what was I doing nine years ago?!

(I suppose I could go back and look. Ha.) (No.)

This is what I remember from that first week.

Home, which was our bought-brand-new townhouse, with the room I painted yellow for the new baby. But at first he slept in the pack and play next to my side of the bed. He was not a pretty newborn, all skinny and spindly and alien-like, with long spider-leg fingers that flexed themselves in weird ways. He was barely 6 pounds and was the opposite of champion nurser. But because I like to get straight As in everything, I was desperately adhering to the lactation consultant's suggestion that we tube feed until the baby got stronger.


Tube feeding sucked. But I barely remember it, because the whole first few days of Jack's life is completely consumed by Speechless Baby Wonder. 

I know, I know, could I BE more "cherish every moment" obnoxious? But each night I would pull that tiny skinny baby out of his bed and stick him next to me while we got ourselves ready to feed him and I'd just STARE. This baby - he was mine! Forever! I didn't have to give him back! He was a whole little PERSON and he belonged to ME and was this my life now?! HOLY CATS 

I wasn't even tired, you guys. The alarm would go off - because OH YES we had to feed him on a schedule and wake him up, HELLO TINY TERRIBLE NURSER BABY - and I was HAPPY to wake up. I was DELIGHTED. I was not tired at ALL. Okay okay, maybe I was a little tired, but then I would remember all over again that there was this breathtaking newness in my life and it was time to stare and wonder over him again. 

This is really all I remember from his first days home. Middle of the night amazement. Quiet staring. Alien baby finger weirdness. More staring. More amazement. More reminding myself that this tiny thing was mine. 

Sometimes I feel terrible - well, every time, really - when I hear moms talk about their first weeks home with their first baby. How crazy and frightening and exhausting and the screaming and the PPD and all sorts of things that I didn't deal with. I had easy babies, for starters, and then I also really do think I have, like, the opposite of PPD. Horribly anxious DURING pregnancy, happy as a fool afterwards. So yeah, that accounts for a lot, probably. 

But I cherish those middle of the night moments with brand new Jack, I really do, however crazy hormone fueled they were. They were amazing. They were perfect. They were unreal. He wasn't himself yet, you know? Or maybe I should say I didn't know him yet. And it was still all about me and this baby as an appendage of me. I hate to say it was like having a new toy, but it felt like having the newest best toy. I KNOW! I AM TERRIBLE!

I wonder if my blog would bear out these memories. I bet not. I bet I wrote evvvvvvery itty bitty detail I'm leaving out here. But I'm leaving them out because I don't remember that stuff. I know the staring happened, it was real, and that's what ended up being the important part of those days. The falling in love. 

Forgive me, Internet. There are few online sins worse than telling everyone how you have cherished every moment. But I think you CAN cherish SOME moments? Even when you have a sterile tube taped to your boob and your husband is micromanaging how you're attempting to latch a six-pound baby at three in the morning... 

This is just what nine-year-old Jack wants to read about himself, isn't it, but lucky for him this blog is not about him anymore. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIRST WONDER BABY.)

We'll just forget that ever happened


So this is what's up. I stopped blogging. I told myself I was done blogging. I told my friends and family I was done blogging. I MIGHT HAVE CRIED A LITTLE, OKAY?

Then I went to Hawaii over Spring Break, spent a lot of time sitting in the sun drinking cocktails and Mulling Life, and I realized: NOPE. 

The week before we went to Hawaii was a nightmare. 

The Saturday before - the night before Easter - I was about to hide the kids' Easter baskets when I noticed that they were covered, no, SWARMING, with ants. We are fighting neverending battles against ants and they won this one big time. I found myself wandering Target at 10 o'clock at night, damning the entire population of Seattle for buying up all the Easter baskets (because I'd thrown everything away, all of it) and staving off tears by writing despairing texts to everyone I knew. 

Easter Sunday we found lice in the girls' hair. 

Monday we realized our leaky washer was getting worse, what with the ants and the lice laundry. 

Tuesday we paid a company called Lice Knowing You to comb the girls' hair because IT IS THE WORST JOB IN THE UNIVERSE.

Wednesday we worried about the washer. And the water damage on the floor. Phillip left work early to go buy a new washing machine at Home Depot. I had never been more in love. 

Thursday we went back for a lice check. All clear! 

Friday I drove to Vancouver with friends for a much needed ladies' weekend away and our new washing machine was installed.

Saturday Phillip texted to tell me that um, hmm, it actually wasn't the washer, he thinks the leak is in the WALL. 

Sunday evening Phillip called to tell me that our contractor would NOT be starting our bathroom demo on Monday as planned, he needed to undergo a biopsy to see if his acid reflux was actually CANCER. 

That's when I cried. 

(I've since returned to a more balanced human being who is more sad for her contractor-who-became-a-friend than her postponed bathroom. But I might have reached A Limit that night.) 

When I came back from Vancouver the bathroom plans were up in the air, the laundry room was still taking on water, and we were going to Hawaii on Thursday. I asked Phillip, "Are the locusts next?" 

The morning before we went to Hawaii we had a plumber come, cut out water damaged section of wall, and fixed our leaky pipe. I'm not mad about this. I got a fancy new washing machine out of our lack of House Handiness. But, you know, there's a gaping hole in the laundry room wall. 

So I'm sitting in Hawaii thinking about all this and WHAT IT MEANS. And I realize that I really miss my blog. Which I always told everyone I would always write on, even if the only reader I had was my mom. Which was true of my blog's early years! (YEARS!) How many times have I said that I don't know what I think or how I feel about something until I write it? 


So I'm back. And things are better. We're interviewing new contractors this week. Phillip and I are slowly coming back from that edge where everything makes us want to push the other one off. The kids are doing well. The weather has been MAGICAL. 

I took a lot of people off my Twitter and I took Twitter off my computer. I'm keeping my Facebook account because it's basically my mom's Facebook account. I have my phone numbers for emergency texting. I'm dialing it back, for real. But I had gobs of fun revamping this place to look (I realized afterwards) just like my bakery website (shrug) and I MISSED YOU, BLOG, I REALLY DID.