Crows

There’s little time for personal blogs anymore.  Everything is angle, niche, educational. There’s nothing about a Mom blog that can be optimized for a more kale-infused life.

Mom bloggers have moved on: to podcasts and social media positions and gondola rides with their teenagers.  They’ve had divorces and promotions, run-ins with the bottle and enough with blogging Conferences.  Or, they’ve just moved along, quietly and purposefully.  Life’s urgencies and random judgments have quelled the need to share the minutae, or at least the type that can’t be reasonably extracted into a thirty-second attention span.

It’s 2016, and that means YouTube lipstick tutorials and Instagram filtered selfies with #likeittoknowit, strategic blue white light slicing  errant pimples.

I haven’t missed personal blogging like I thought I would because I’ve been sorting out lunchboxes and plotting sales plans, snoring on redeyes and feeling guilty about all of the things I’ve swept under my bed.  I write in my head and in paragraphs under Instagram captions, sometimes on linkedin.  I have a secret book started but it’s not urgent anymore: it’s unraveling at its leisure because I’m finally learning to be softer with myself.

It’s been a year since my Dad died and it’s not coincidental that I’m writing here again, now.  He always liked reading the things I wrote and I can picture him holding one of my pre-pubescent manuscripts grinning: “You’re such a hoot, Kristin.  You’re such a hoot.”

Death is something that gets in your bones and jolts out of them at strangely designated moments: holidays, birthdays, first times.  As the calendar approaches April 11, I can’t stop thinking about him.

His legs, how thin he was on that hospital bed.  His words in the wheelchair outside the hospital, I love you dad, I said, and it wasn’t weird. Finally.  In the morning sun, when it’s just Summer and I in the kitchen and the rest of the family is sleeping, I can feel something oddly familiar, like his shoulder and his Old Spice and his deep gravel voice – entrenched in the mountains across the water.

“Hi Dad,” I whisper,”We are good.  Mom is strong and the kids build forts with her on Sunday nights.  Dave sent me a text today.  Jude says you are dancing in his heart.”

I don’t know why but I often think of him whenever a crow soars overhead, lands on our balcony, eyes us curiously from a forest branch perch. Spirit animals, energy transfer, our continual march toward frailty and what really matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of the Sharpie Scrawl

Seven years ago it was just me and my toddler.  Silence pounded the windows at night while I sat at my computer, my surrogate lover.  I sometimes observed, I sometimes forced humour, I sometimes wrote what spilled out without any foresight or wisdom and without a lick of skill.  Always the reward for the late night tapping was a temperance of the loneliness that flooded in with comments, bringing tinned camaraderie, which I consumed with a wild  hunger.

My son was two, he was sweet and wise beyond his years and my hope in a family was shattered.  I wondered just how much I’d messed up his life with my bad decisions, wondered how dislodged he felt with just me leading his tiny life.

I kept a jar of caramel in the fridge and a bottle of wine in the cabinet and I’d eat nothing during the day and fill myself with sugar at night.  I don’t remember which of the rain splattered nights it was, or what spurred me on, but one blog post was just a series of fragmented hope that I’d already lost, of scenes I’d once conjured as a possibility, deep back there, but never uttered because the pinpoint possibility of fruition seemed a bit ridiculous.

But still, I wrote it like it was real:

a husband, a smart one, with a giant heart

a daughter, with wise eyes

a house on the ocean, in front of the calm

I remember thinking about my husband’s face, about what an imagined daughter might look like.  I imagined a father figure for my tow-headed boy, and someone who might love me despite all the fuckedupness.  I remember the house, because it was the biggest stretch of all.  It had a view that looked something like this:

 

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I’ve always believed in writing things down, to willing the Universe slightly in your favour by scrawling things in thick black Sharpie and willing a path to the things that your soul craves the most deeply. Cancer and war and addiction and horror will still swirl around and inside, of course, but the things that might make your heart sparkle might lie somewhere in the transfer of desire from your head to your hand and on to paper, maybe?

I think so.  I don’t know why else I could possibly be here today, 7 years after flying here with a broken heart and a two year old, in my tiny house with my husband and my boys – my daughter and an ocean out my window.

I like it, pants

Two year olds are a lethal combination of stubborn determination and ill equipped faculties and my days are mostly spent preventing Jude from carrying out a horrifying variety of ill-conceived ideas and if he was a client or a friend I’d have left him to self-destruct eons ago but it’s so weird, how genetically pre-disposed we are to loving the creatures that come from inside us. Even when they’re totally, unflinchingly crazy.

Jude perplexes me everyday with his frantic, irrefutable Jude-ness and I remember the naive woman who thought that Nolan is sweet-tempered and sensitive because of something measured she did and I want to wipe the smug off her face and tell her the whole truth: you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

Every morning Jude and I go through an overflowing laundry basket of his clean clothes and he decides what he wants to wear.  Invariably he tries on three pairs of striped velcro shorts and three shirts that look exactly the same and then takes them off again, getting his nubby legs stuck in one leg hole or his shirt inside out and we do this again and again for half an hour until I am sticky with sweat and heaving with frustration.  Finally, he declares, “I like it, pants,” and we are ready to start the day. 

It’s been almost a decade since I was last home with small human beings and I’d forgotten about the frazzled, hard-breathing pace of nothingness that infuses the days.  There are diaper blow outs in Superstore and heartstopping brand new smiles, there are tiny hands grazing my chest and scrambled egg remnants in the bookcase.  There are temper tantrums in the worst possible places, and a strange, inexplicable emotion that hovers around me: gratitude for what I am doing, guilt that I crave a bit more.  There are no tangible benefits to this job, just long-term perks that are fleeting and often dampened with all the tired and the crumbs. 

I like them, my babies.  But I’m grateful for the past experience that allows me to understand the fleetingness of this crazy, frenetic, banal phase I’m in right now.

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If I permitted it, he’d scooter down a mountainside and crash into a murder of crows, igniting feathers and cursing us all.

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(Corn in the back of a Hot Wheels truck because, Two.)

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(We do an awful lot of walking in circles in forests, until Jude’s legs tire and I carry him in one arm and a scooter in another and baby on the front and pray for no tantrums until I can deposit him on the doorstep)

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(Thank god for Nolan.  Who is sweet and kind and obedient with absolutely nothing to do with me)

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It’s worth it. 

The Magic Doesn’t Wane

 

The operating room was yesterday and also two centuries ago and when I close my eyes and think about it I see this:  the same tobacco-smelling nurse with the crepey smiling eyes that was there for Jude’s birth, the two small and serious black haired anesthesiologists with flowered pants under yellow smocks, the smell of burning skin, cauterizing something I didn’t want to know about.

I started tearing up the moment they finally got the IV into my rolling veins.  They wheeled me into the cold edged operating room several dozen minutes before they let Corey in and I was panicking, craving his impenetrable calm in stressful situations.  I was distracted by the clamp on my thumb, the obscene amount of time it seemed to take to slice into my stomach, the desperation I felt to finally meet the baby girl I already knew in my heart.

When Summer Juliette was born, there was a small, almost delicate wail and then Corey was ushered away and the pediatrician took some photos with my old Canon.

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In tI’d had a dream the night before and it was vivid and not what you could call good and I recalled that dream minutes after Summer was born and couldn’t stop myself from bellowing through the serious silver cutters and whizzing life savers:

“It’s not a tiny Asian boy with eyes on top of his head? Is it?”

The nurses looked at Corey with confusion and I’m sure adrenaline and temporary insanity were contemplated and no one answered me and then they brought me my girl.

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She’s an angel baby.  She cried when she came into our world, briefly, and has barely cried since.  She sleeps all through the night and she takes in her Universe with her tiny wizened little face and she looks worried, except when she smiles and then my heart explodes with the incredible miraculousness of it all.  Even after three babies.  The magic doesn’t wane.

Also, this:

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Summer is 7 weeks old now and stay at home motherhood deserves a CFO salary and Jude is totally crazy and thank GOD for Nolan, is all I have to say about our current situation.  There’s a reason this blog hasn’t been updated in weeks.

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I have diastisis recti again, and also a pretty messy belly button and in the grand scheme of wars and debilitating diseases and the ocean rotting, it’s ridiculous that I even notice this but I can only directly influence the meaningless things and so I’m planning to document my progress back to a normal belly again on here because: goddammit, it’s irritating to still look pregnant in your stomach when you’re fit everywhere else.    Also it’s easy to bang out quick posts about food and exercise, easier than trying to eke anything interesting out of my days of diapers and tantrums, anyway.

 

Advanced Maternal Age

My Facebook feed is a scroll of graduations: grade 8, high school, junior high.  There’s a series of inevitable exclamation marks below the captions, women my age, the same sentiment, reworded:

How did that happen?

I remember the day she was born and now she’s in Grade 8?

So grown up.  Time flies.

I went to elementary school with Jennifer and I remember that she invited me to her birthday party in grade 5 but not in grade 6, that she had a pair of much-coveted faux paint-splattered white jeans, that she was one of the girls who smoked in the bathroom in junior high.   And today her photos are at the top of my Facebook stream, standing with the same mouth and eyes with her gigantically tall son who is graduating from high school.

My belly, ripe and mapped with blue-purple veins, pulsates with rippling feet and tiny limbs and I am expecting my third baby at a time when some women from my small hometown are becoming grandmas.  When Nolan graduates high school, Jude will be in grade 5.  Our daughter will be in grade 3.  Sometimes it makes me want to put my head in a paper bag and other times I feel overwhelmed with the fact of my second chance at a full-fledged family, of messy Sunday omelettes and fuzzy masses of sweet-smelling toddler hair tickling my nose too early in the morning.

This is my third pregnancy but because I know with final certainty that it will be my last, I am noticing more.  I stop to look when the roiling starts in my belly, when a kick extends down my loins and causes a startle of inside-out reflexes.  I don’t begrudge the shooting-rocket belly button, the scribbly spider veins, the brand new cottage cheese, because they are battle marks and because they’re fleeting, like everything else.

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If this were 2006 this would be a totally different blog post and I’d be writing the details about the last 5 months of our lives and then a string of comments would appear within minutes

Holy shit are you OK?

We’re thinking of you and sending positive vibes.

I am going through something exactly like this and thank you for sharing because I thought I was the only one.

You’re an asshole narcissist pin head and you brought this on yourself, bitch. (which is precisely the reason that compelling personal blogs no longer exist and you need to read about honest life grit in amazon memoirs)

It’s been a challenging few months, for sure, and that’s partially why I haven’t been writing here and partially why I need to start up again.  Our baby girl will make her entrance on to this planet in 23 days exactly and I know her babyhood will be gone in a snap, that I will be 62 in a matter of minutes, that Nolan will be grinning down at me, a graduate, in the blink of an eye.  And I don’t want to forget about any of it.

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For those of you who aren’t friends with me on Facebook and may have missed it, I did an article last month for the Crossfit journal, and it’s here.  I also have an article in the July issue of Today’s Parent magazine and I’m going to start doing more professional writing again too.  I’m pretty stoked about an upcoming article I have for a national women’s magazine, too, and I’ll keep you posted here when that comes out as well.

 

 

 

 

Meant To Be

Almost as soon as it started, I was filled with a sudden, sweaty-palmed recognition.

Ahh, shit, this.  Yes, this is what it felt like before, and the time before too.  How the hell does the insta-forgetting happen every time?  Mother Nature is shrewd, cunning, stunningly effective.

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We’d talked about it, a few months before.  We’d even decided that I’d make an appointment to get my IUD removed.  I had a few years before I hit forty, but only a few.  Time was sparse, fleeting.  Jude, with his grumpy old man tendencies, could probably benefit from the shock of a sibling, and I had an uncomfortable knawing around my gut that my family — as insane and robust and amazing as it was — might not be complete yet.  But then, something big shifted and it became apparent that my career path might have to shift,  and fast.  I started nudging my linkedin networks, perusing the local hot companies, assessing possibilities.

“Now,” I said to Corey,” Is probably not the time.”

So almost as soon as a fifth family member became a possibility, it became impossible, and that was OK too.  As it was, we had a grade schooler and a whippersnapper and not enough sleep.  I wanted to write a book,  anyway, I’d been threatening for goddamned years now.  Corey’s business was about to rocketlaunch, and a baby wasn’t in the cards.

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It was a combination of things: a sudden requirement to get up at 3am to let out an irritatingly miniscule pee.  A swift, perplexing aversion to the smell of coffee and even the possibility of smelling any kind of red meat.  And my chest.  I was way too far past puberty to be developing a new cup size, and so I hunched in the bathroom at midnight with a covert package of First Response without telling Corey what I was doing.

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The next morning  the full gamut of symptoms rushed in as if  they’d been bottled up, waiting to bubble out.  The nausea came in rolling waves of sickness, the left side of my temple pounded constantly.   I pulled on tights, a black button up blouse, a pencil skirt, willing away the taunting vomit.   Twice, I threw up out the window, on to a black rain-slicked street, grateful for the cloak of 6:30 AM.

If there’s anything as stressful as death and divorce, it might be starting a dream career with the hottest tech company in the city while inadvertently pregnant and wretchedly ill.

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I told my management team once the danger period was over, once I knew that indeed, this baby was on its way.  They were shocked — understandably so — but extremely good about it all.  They don’t know me well enough yet  to know  for sure that I won’t let a baby mangle my ability to achieve my business goals in any way, and in fact, that my underdog feelings are more likely to compel me.   But I do intend to prove it, of course, and now that I’m comfortably  cocooned in the second trimester,  I can see I won’t have to do that while retching out the car window, which is excellent.

Baby number 3 means the development of a much earlier belly, and I’m shocked every time I look down at my stomach.  Baby number 3, coming this summer.   Who the hell would ever have thought, you know?

2013

This year started in Costa Rica, where Corey’s foot was sliced by a stingray and Nolan was forced to trash his favourite velour Spongebob blanket in the Toronto airport layover, teary eyed at the pukefest on the plane (sorry, Westjet passengers in front of us!  Sorry.  Chunks happen.  Oh my god.)

But the dubious was tempered with the unforgettable, a giant swimming pig, next to a rustic restaurant near Tamarindo. Avocado shrimp salad, the freshest we’d ever tasted. Surfing off paradise beaches, sitting next to a moonlit pool, still easy in each other’s company. Halfway through the year, it was Hawaii, and roadside pineapple and a sporadically crotchety baby.  An experiment of sorts: could we make a drastic change?

The answer, it turned out, was no, not yet — but in the meantime we had three weddings to attend.  We are in our thirties and the privilege of witnessing earnest vows and choked-up words has waned in recent years: activities, largely, of a slightly younger crowd.  But in 2013  we were invited to two engagement parties turned surprise weddings — Kobe and Kelsey and Michael and Adrian and their aginst-odds, verclempt moments turned into highlights of our year, too.   And just last month we were overjoyed to watch our good friends Amy and Adam tie the knot in Mexico, hard and earnestly, after so many years together.  An overabundance of beaches and love — it seemed like the year couldn’t get better.

Except.  Change loomed.

It isn’t something that comes easily to me: I resist it and resent it, and for that reason, a large chunk of my brain insisted on believing that I’d be with my employer forever.  I’d been with them for 7 years, after all.  Why mess with the consistent?

But life threw a curveball and it became very crystal clear that consistency is only an illusion and though I was terrified to let go of that comfy, cozy (fraying) rope, my god.  The pool I landed in is so incredible and smart and motivating.  Why didn’t I go looking for it years ago?  This year taught me that I need to go looking for change sometimes, perhaps when I’m at my most comfortable.

2013 was full of sandy hair and early tidal pools, watery-eyed vows and first steps.  It was gritty and slightly rocky, inspiring in the most unexpected places.  It was never, ever boring.  Even when shit seems to be going totally sideways, it’s actually going up, to a better place, and an entirely new perspective.

Bring it on, 2014.