Last week, I came back up the stairs from the driveway at 6:55 am, already late for an early appointment. A lab appointment that required a twelve hour fast (read: no coffee) looked at Shrek, and announced with defeat; “My battery is dead, again. Can you please help me?”
Without skipping a beat, Marcel jumps off the couch, throws his arms over his head and in rah-rah fashion and hollers; “Yes! Yes Shrek buddy! This is your time to SHINE!”
You have never seen two people smiling so big, while jumping a battery at 7:00 in the morning.
“Mom do you really think yelling at me to stop yelling is an effective parenting strategy?”
On blended families:
“Well sometimes I find myself shaking, wondering, do I really KNOW Shrek? I mean, how do I know if what I am feeling is what you really are supposed to feel about your dad?”
“The only thing we can ever be perfect at really, is being yourself.”
We went on a sweet little vacation week retreat the day before last. With basketball practices, Shrek’s day and night work and teaching schedule, and other obligations it was tucked neatly in the middle of the week. While this meant much of the planning, packing, unpacking, and meal preps fell on me it also meant I learned how I will do that piece a little differently next time. I still enjoyed it immensely. We all did. Continue reading “A mini vacay (of sorts)”→
Good morning all. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a lovely afternoon with friends of Shrek a little west of here. Part of the deliciousness of the day featured a stroll on their land in the crunchy snow. Land. trees. No properties for miles. This is the way much of the state is, although I often forget this, living in the “city”. I love that the boys are as at ease racing through the woods after a lumbering glove snatching golden retriever as they are taking in all the majesty of a gospel concert celebration for MLK day at the theater.
A few other sweet moments captured below include Sammy belting out A Sick Day for Amos McGee to his brother before bed, and he and Shrek finding their groove during a little harmonica and guitar duet. The weekend also featured all sorts of craft things like sewing, looming, and drawing by the lot of us. One source of great pride for the two of us as co-parents (yes I did just write that) is our commitment to no television before 10:00am on the the weekend. It’s not that we object to screen time–it has it’s place over here indeed. It’s that we both objected to the intrusion of the sound of it, on our combined living space early in the morning. Over time we have helped the boys learn all sorts of other things they can do–electronic free until then. Reading, drawing, and the ukelele are on the top of the list. Connect the dots, playing with the million figurines Marcel has amassed, looming, and cuddling are up their too. It seemed like an uphill battle at first, but come around here at 8:45 on a Sunday these days, and you’ll think you’re on the set of Little House on the Prairie or something.
The sounds of little feet coming towards me signal the end to this sweet little start to my week with the MamaC extended family. Thanks for sharing the morning with me, I feel you out there, and miss you when I don’t write. To being seen, reaching out to others, and believing in the best in all of us today. Bring it on Monday!
“Mommy! Mommy? Mommy?!” came the calls from the next room.
His tone sounds so defeated, so pained as Marcel delivers this message to my weary and mildly attentive self standing next to his bed; “Mommy I just feel so lonely.”
Marcel, you have twenty-five stuffed animals right here. Here’s Rudolph, Lamby, Chippy and…”
“Oh Mommy. You just don’t understand. It’s just that none of my stuffed animals are able to meet my needs anymore.”
“You know Mommy you really are so blessed. I mean you have seriously amazing kids.”
While pointing to his picture of a crocodile, a poodle, a giant pigeon, and a dinosaur all on leashes “being walked across a bridge by a very strong mommy,” he paused, looked up and said; “Huh. It seems like she is being pulled in so many directions.”
In the car tonight on the way to a friend’s house Marcel commands; “Raise your hand if you are going to get married soon, or if you have the best almost dad ever!”
Any glorious one liners to share? They do keep my head above water most days I have to say. The kid sure can craft a line.
Last night Shrek and I ended the year sitting on the couch reflecting in a round about way. “Quite a year Mama C,” he began. “You moved in with this man, you got engaged, you became a blended family of nine…” And from there we mused. We mirrored. We laughed. We got big eyed realizing that both of us climbed a few rocky mountains at break neck speed to arrive here on this couch in a calm and palpably easy space looking out a hopeful view for 2013. We had all our limbs and most of our teeth. Things look good.
Just prior to that he was playing his guitar and I was doing some journaling. He played me the song he used to propose to me among others. I scratched out a list of things I wanted to be reminiscing about at the close of 2013 (published poems, tropical sands in my toes, and microphones were on the list, but you’ll have to wait to discover the others with me). It was about the easiest New Year’s Eve ever.
Just prior the boys went to sleep to strummed lullabies and cuddles easily after a last bath of 2012. Bath and hair by candlelight to calm us from the uproarious and lovely gathering of families from the boys’ school earlier in the evening. A school Sam had only began going to a year ago this week, and Marcel in September. A school and community that all four of us were now considered happily ensconced within her colorful and vibrant fabric. Just this week Sam had his first and very successful overnight, and Marcel his first kindergarten playdate. I’m in full swing co-organizing a school wide Martin Luther King Day celebration as an active member of the PTO. We have a school community that we all know we belong to. This is big.
When I came upstairs a few minutes after the boys I came upon a sight that mushed me right on up. On the living room couch sat Shrek with Sam under one arm leaning into him reading a book. Marcel’s toes were curled into him on the other side, as he leaned back and listened too. The lights were soft as Shrek’s voice gently narrated a very powerful story of freedom and perseverance to his rapt audience. I wiggled in next to my sweet boys all in a heap.
I took a very deep breath.
This is abundance. This is blended. This is all I need right here, right now.
This is arrival. This is part of my now larger family of nine who are also there with us on that couch in our playful memories from earlier in the week of all of us celebrating and Wii dancing together becoming our own blended new normal.
You took me by surprise 2012. Or, I took you by surprise. Either way, it worked. 2013, we welcome you to the stage. We know you’ve got a great show planned!
The other night Marcel came running into the kitchen to inform me that I was the “best Mom ever.” I believe that shakes and popcorn for dinner was 99% of the reason for this spontaneous outburst of appreciation.
From the other room Sam hollers; “[Shrek] you are the best almost dad ever.”
Both Shrek and I froze in our tracks. It was so unexpected. It felt like the moment you reach the top of the mountain after convincing yourself for hours that you will make it to the top. Of course the top is just that: a resting point, a plateau. There are so many other mountains out there to climb. But for that moment and many since, we have been enjoying the blended family view from up here.
I’ve been feeling a little unplaced the last few weeks.
Journeying between my rich old life and this rich new one.
We say old to mean the past, the former, what we no longer have or do:
Our old house, our old dog, our old job.
My “old” is living alone as a single mama-on one floor of a two family home.
The upstairs was Uncle’s old apartment.
Now we (Shrek+boys+me) are living in the entire two family home-as one NEW family.
Shrek’s grown children are also our new family. They visit and do their laundry, eat birthday cake, and just hang out with their dad on the couch in the late afternoon. It is so new for all of us. A new that can only become an old, through several loads of laundry, and your feet hanging over the couch that used to be in his old house too.
How do they take in these two bonus boys climbing all over their sphere of understanding about who their dad is? What does it feel like to them to see the sawdust in Shrek’s hair from the loft beds he made for these sons-and little brothers-in-training? Of course they are being nothing short of magnificent with all of us. I feel so blessed by my bonus kids too. It allows me to tap into a way of being that feels so easy, and natural for me, as I have many young people their age in my life already.
Then there is Shrek and his experience of all of their adjusting. How is he reconciling his old and his new? My deepest sense is that we are all falling into family with each other right on pace. It is, after all another kind of love–family love. It has awkward moments, but really they are just moments that are. Just leaves around this growing family tree scattered about. Colorful, rich, and vibrant.
Then there are the days that I go from feeling like I was really good at being a single mom, to feeling like I am really rotten at being a co-parent, a partner, a fiance-in-trainning (no not yet mom) all the time. Then, sometimes I feel like I have all my plates spinning in sync and I don’t dare exhale. I can do this. I can. I think I can. Hey look! I’m doing it…
Who picks them up now?
Do I pick them up alone?
Do I know how to really ask for his help?
Do I get scared he’ll say no if I do ask?
Do I get resentful when he doesn’t just pick them up without my asking?
Do I get defensive if he picks them up his way, and not my way?
Do I remember how to be appreciative when he finds a different way to put them back together that works too?
Like Marcel’s Harold and the Purple Crayon imitation up the stairwell wall all the way in to the living room, and ending on the cushions of Shrek’s couch (with a washable-thank you Universe-marker) was a recent straw on this camel’s back.
I felt ashamed. Shrek seemed stunned. Marcel washed the walls, Shrek cleaned the couch, and the apology letter was crafted. Dust settled. It was not the end of the world. I sat alone for a moment wondering if this “trail” Marcel drew was an indication things were moving too fast for him? For all of us? Was Shrek upstairs wondering if this was more than he bargained for?
In the next breath I wondered if it wasn’t the story-teller in Marcel, just marking the transition, and asking us all to notice, he was making his way up the stairs too.
Alas, we are here.
Behind leaves, and with shaved heads*.
We are upstairs, and we are downstairs.
We are old and we are new.
* Sometimes it is time for a change, and sometimes that change is dramatic, and turns out to be just what you needed.