Saturday, September 20, 2014

Will You Wear My Friendship Bracelet?

For some, this post may apply to you at age 26. For others, maybe age 39. Still others, it may not apply at all. In which case, read away and enjoy being a totally well-adjusted, sociable person. You're winning at life, and I salute you, my friend. Text me? No? Oh. Okay.

Friends. Buddies. Pals. Besties. Homegirls (or boys). BFFs. Whatever term you use, it seems that there's a weird shift that happens after a certain age. It tends to happen post-quarterlife crisis (which may last different durations depending on the person and their situation), when finding all the settling-down trappings of life -- a sweet spouse, a pet or two (or three), maybe even babies.

When you settle into living with your best friend (the one you want to grow old with; you know the one), your schedules intertwine, your to-dos rely upon the other's availability (or willingness to watch the munchkin for you while you do your own thing), and you come to find more value in watching your favorite black-and-white movies together in PJs than you do hitting up a local bar.

Or maybe your local bars are overrun by college kids and an environment that simply doesn't appeal. Or maybe it's too loud to talk over the noise. Or maybe you gave up that scene long ago. All of the above, please.

So, anyhoo, life takes over. Not an excuse. It just does.

On top of this, socializing is equal parts emotion, sport, entertainment, and game, especially when you first know someone. Playing the game ("When are you free?" That's half the battle), doing so skillfully while supporting your friend and still enjoying yourself simultaneously? It all needs to be balanced. And it becomes more of a challenge as you grow older and have less time to devote to properly maintaining a friendship, especially while maintaining a career, a happy, fulfilling marriage, a happy, well-adjusted child, and a relatively happy (if not disorderly) home. Toss in hopes and dreams and one's cup runneth over...and not always in the best of ways.

For some of us, developing new friendships is tough in the first place. We're not in college anymore, where you could bump into someone from one of your classes in the cafeteria and strike up a pleasant conversation about the tacos. We're not in high school, where you most likely knew 90% of the people in highly intimate ways ("Remember Angela Farfigneugan who showed her purple polka dotted undies in 2nd grade?") and felt like you were all kind of related in the first place. Or even the first day of kindergarten where the girl you shared the yummy paste green crayon with would be your BFF for the next ten years.

Making. New. Friends. Sucks. (Generally.) And in the Mom World, first impressions are everything. What can I say? Lots of moms So, yeah. If I'm out at the playground with a particularly hysterical 2-year-old and make eye contact with a possible future BFF, will my parenting/aka personality/aka whole being be questioned? Plus, I'm not great at connecting. 

If you know me in "real life", you're probably aware that I'm pretty awkward. Okay, very awkward. I have a hard time not weirding people out during a conversation. I try to look into their eyes but end up doing it too long, then stare at the floor. I do listen well, but I probably give off the impression that I'm not. Or maybe that I'm psychotic. Either/or. I've also lost all ability to select appropriate conversational topics. Poop! Let's talk about poop. Cat poop, baby poop, husband poop; it's all the same. Aaaand I've gone too far.

Now that you know all of my social flaws (hug me), let's just say that the friendships that I do have are pretty damn important to me. 

This doesn't mean that I don't inadvertently, completely unintentionally neglect those highly cherished friends. Might months go by until I call or text? Absolutely. Do we rarely get together? Sure. But, when we do, a simple cup of coffee or meal together recharges me and fills me with such joy -- and hopefully my friends feel the same.

So, naturally, I hope to find more connections like these. A little support sharing, back-and-forth, from a like-minded person with a few similarities. Befriending mamas is the easiest way for the other person to realize that, yes, schedule wrangling might be a little tough and, no, we won't always be available to each other. But, guess what. We have other built-in support to get us through those times. Those husbands for venting and crying (and laughing) with. Those babies for distracting us with heightened levels of awesomeness. Those furbabies for the sincerest form of cuddling known to man. We make it work.

Non-mama friends sometimes get this -- and those are truly some of my best friends.
But, the older I get, the harder it seems to make those friends. Sometimes it's even difficult to keep the old ones. I'm not a fan of it, but I can face the grim reality; it does happen. Here you get married and you never think you'll be dealing with a break-up ever again, find out that there's a whole other type of break-up that you forgot all about, and it hurts just as much.

I only wish I knew how to juggle it all - work, marriage, motherhood, responsibilities to all of that while also paying bills and maintaining a house. Somewhere in there I try to carve out a little bit of life and time for myself (like this blog). But, I'm not 16 anymore, or 21, or even 27. Those were completely different lifetimes. Now, everything (including friendships) takes more work, more time, and it doesn't always go the way I'd like. A new person might care less about what I have to say and I never hear or see them again. I may lose touch with an old friend and before I know it, weeks become months become years. It can downright suck when I stop for a moment to come up for air and realize I've lost a person who's been part of my cast since elementary school.

I know I'm not alone, not the first to go through this, but it doesn't make it any easier to handle or plow through on those days when it hits me, when I reflect on the past, and I see how much has changed. There is no magic answer, no magic word that can make it so. I wish there was. But sometimes I just don't know. However, the best part of growing older is learning the ability to cope. One can bitch for only so long before recognizing that it doesn't help the situation and, really, it's time to find perspective. The life that I have is the one that I chose, and I couldn't be happier with the family we've built and the journey that we're carving out.  

All this said, I still long for friendships. To know a variety of people. To do fun things. To have people who can come over, understand the messiness of three cats and three people living in less than 1,000 square feet and not care. To have a Millie to my Laura (or vice versa, depending on whether I'm the "wacky friend" or not). To laugh with abandon and say things without fear of it being used against me in the future or to share feelings sans judgment. To be able to check in with funny texts from time to time to ensure that the other's still alive, or to share a funny "doesn't matter in the grand scheme" moment. 

I'm not asking for a vast amount of friends, or for friends who can all get together and get along, or for those take-all-afternoon phone calls of junior high. I'm not necessary looking for a fellow mother, but I am looking for someone who understands that my first priority, above all else, is that role (followed closely by the happiness of my husband; I subscribe to "Happy husband, happy life." Luckily, he's an easy one to please). And I'm not greedy. Just one, two, three...a dozen BFFs. Too much to ask? 

Really, I just want someone to wear my friendship bracelet. Their choice of color.

Is that too much to ask?

* I'd like to thank Dave for helping me find the words to write this post. As with all things in life, I couldn't do it without you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Currently - Sept. 19th

Howdy, folks! How're things? They're peachy here. No, really. They are! This week has been a mix of fast and slow, busy and bored, frantic and calm. And it's been good.

While I'm not usually a "talk on the phone" person (my 13-year-old self is dying laughing at me right now. DYING. How badly did I want my own phone line?), I'm hoping to start calling friends and family for a little chat here and there. My brother's birthday is tomorrow, so I hope to shoot him a line. I've got a long-time friend I want to touch base with. Otherwise, for some strange reason, autumn is the "let's have people over! Let's go DO something with someone we love!" time of the year, so we'll be checking our schedules to see who wants to have some play dates and grown-up get-togethers. Fun!

Is anyone else loving the new Ken Burns' doc on the Roosevelts? I know I'm not the only one, given how much buzz it's getting. I just wish I could focus more on it. It comes on right as we're putting Hadman down for the night (which entails him talking or calling for us for a good hours thereafter), and, of course, I'm immediately exhausted and have a handful of other duties I'd like to perform at the same time. Like Internety stuff. But, I'm still getting lots out of it. Our family has a couple of Roosevelt run-ins (on both sides of the family, egad!), so I tend to perk up for them. Yay, Progressives!

It's fall, right? So, eating excessive amounts of baked goods and comfort foods is totally acceptable, right? RIGHT?? I've made ham and potato soup, banana blueberry muffins, a tenderloin, and more...during a busy workweek. And I haven't written a single post about any of them. #bloggerfail

While I had hoped that we would be found riding around the countryside doing Fall activities, stocking up on farmers' market goodies, and generally enjoying family life, the weather looks impeccable and unusually warm. This, of course, means that we'll be taking advantage of it to do some paint touch-ups, weeding, pulling up of the failed garden, and possibly planting some mums (generally Fall-ification). Y'know, a responsible, not-too-fun, adult weekend. :-P

Given the "fun" ahead this weekend, can you tell that I'm wishing and hoping for a few wonderful family-oriented experiences over the following few weeks? You know it. Hopefully getting some of the un-fun chore stuff done soon will make doing that awesome stuff even nicer. Plus, some of it goes hand-in-hand. Like, this weekend I'll pull up the weeds and get stuff ready, then when we're oot and aboot, I'll grab mums, pumpkins, and other autumny goodness to decorate with to finish it up.

Thanks to the ladies at Harvesting Kale and Ot & Et for hosting Currently! 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

He's All Boy

I have a love-hate relationship with that phrase -- "he's all boy!" From the start, I knew that Hadley was a super strong (like, freakishly strong) little guy. He's loud when he's passionate about something and when his energy gets flowing, he's a bull in a china shop. I can't believe how many times I've heard people say that phrase when observing him. Heck, I'm sure I've said it a couple of times, myself.

Maybe I'm just an over-analyzer, but I'm kind of sensitive to gender-specific statements. This one's clearly not meant in a negative way (even if it is sometimes accompanying some less-than-stellar behavior), but some gender statements can be. Any use of the terms "girlie, sissy, toughen up and be a man/take it like a man, grow a pair, throw like a girl" makes my skin crawl.

We all want the best for our kids, right? We're going to encourage him to pursue his interests, whether they be sports or music or art or science or animals or reading or...anything safe, really. And in any combination and amount that he's comfortable with. I was afforded that opportunity, and it's one of the things I'm looking forward to the most about parenting; watching what interests develop and being there for his successes and failures along the way.  

I'm not looking forward to the days when he's influenced by all the outside factors that promote "manliness." I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm hoping he doesn't pick a super high-testosterone, trash-talking sport. If he does, I'll maintain a poker face and have plenty of open dialogue about acceptable behavior. Oh, and sit him down with his cousin, Matthew. He's the epitome of what a scholar athlete should look and sound like.

Watching most of the teen boys at school go through a testosterone-driven social dance is a lot like watching a PBS nature special. The unspoken fight for alpha male is palpable. They become overtly physical and aggressive. They spew vulgar and derogatory language at each other under the guise of friendship. They single out the seemingly weaker beings in a show of solidarity between the louder, bigger, most aggressive. It's not fun, and clearly I speak up, even when it's what they deem "boys will be boys" behavior.

And this, dear reader, is what I'm concerned about most with raising a boy. He's sweet. He's tender. He's sensitive. But, sure, he's also got super-human strength and is quite big for his age. What will he do with all of these wonderful traits? What amalgamation will he put forth to the world? What effects will outside factors have on his development?

My biggest hope for him is happiness. Happiness to be whomever he may be. If that be a confident, verbal, strong-willed individual, awesome. If that be a sensitive, introverted intellect (I'll admit it, he's smart), equally awesome. But if he ever is made to feel shameful for whatever personality or quirks he may have, I hope we'll have given him the tools to stand up for himself positively, or at the very least know in his heart and soul that he's above the nonsense, and that his and our opinions of him are the only ones that matter.

*deep sigh*

Does anyone else have parenting fears like this one? Is it completely irrational, or does it ring true a little bit?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Toddler Threads

Dressing a child is an interesting beast. On one hand, all moms who've been through the fray know that the clothes don't last long and aren't always cheap. Seriously, between the "me do it!" messes the first day they wear that new adorable outfit (which leave you thinking, "Well, great. That won't be a hand-me-down now.") and the fact that they grow faster than weeds, we breeze through clothes. Not that I don't make our little guy wear a favorite novelty shirt until his tummy peeks out underneath. #notsorry Admittedly, he hates retiring his favorite outfits, too. 

On the other hand, isn't it SO. MUCH. FUN? Kiddie clothes are so darn cute; almost as cute as the kids themselves. And, these days, it's not just for mommies with little ladies. We mamas with tiny fellas can get in on the action, too.

But, since I'm not into super graphic superhero shirts (done properly, I love a Batman logo or vintage-style Superman shirt) and skulls and sports themes aren't my bag, Hadman's style sways in the classic/old school/vintage/hipster territory.

I love seeing the kiddie fashion shows on some of my favorite blogs, but since our guy is in constant motion and isn't a huge camera fan at the moment, I figured we'd just check out some outfits he'll be wearing this fall, along with a couple of tips I have for clothing a toddler without breaking the bank.

First things first. What's autumn without a sweater vest? According to my husband, it's boring. So, of course, I stock up on miniature sweater vests at the end of the season (I buy a couple of sizes larger, then put them in plastic bins under the crib for later). Mini Dorky Daddy time!

Oh, and a little secret? The shirt underneath is actually one of our favorite long-sleeve novelty tees. Mix and match, people. No one will know that there's a graphic tee underneath that adorable vest...well, until he spills gravy-laden turkey down his front at Thanksgiving. Then everyone will find out. And no one will care one bit.

Mmm. Turkey. Gravy. Pie. Black Friday.

Ya lost me. Oh, right. Adorable shirt hiding under preppy vest. 

Now for some casual cool. This is dressy enough for Christmas (button it up) or church, if you're full of grace (I'm clearly not), but also can work for a fun play date. For the record, this is totally his dad's style, too, sans cargoes. Ahem.

Wanna hit up a chilly late-season farmers' market? Stock up on those squash, root veggies, and pumpkins, but be sure to bundle up! We always try to keep it comfy (everyone in jeans) and practical. A fleece will do, but we acquired this handmade hooded sweater that just screams leaf peepin' and apple pickin'. Cozy!

I'm a jeans girl, so obviously I try to get one nice pair for the Hadman to run into the ground. They're so versatile I have to have one good better pair.

Oh, and this is the second time we've used this fancy, schmancy shirt. He wore it about a year ago, so when my MIL found it on clearance in a bigger size, we were ecstatic. What better way to quickly and comfortably dress the kid up?! Seriously, I'm thinking ahead, but can't you envision it on New Years' Eve??

These are my simple tips for decking out your little one's wardrobe.

- Don't just buy something at the end of the season for the following year because it's cheap. That's a huge pet peeve in our household. Sure, it cost $3, but if it's ugly or the wrong size for the season or we already have a stack of sweatpants for that season, it's just not worth it. If you LOVE the thing, though, by all means.

- These are toddlers we're talking about. I'm a pretty practical person in the first place (ahem, some might argue that), so I always think about comfort in my clothes...why wouldn't I apply that to my little buddy? So, you'd better know that I stock up on pile of sweatpants, tees, and sweatshirts for day-to-day. And it's not like he doesn't look cute in those, either.

- Sure, it's great to play twinsies (especially with Daddy), but for the most part, we think of Had's interests when we buy him stuff. He's hilarious, hence the novelty shirts. He loves animals and Sesame Street and is even starting to get more and more into superheroes, so we keep an eye out for shirts with animals (sharks, chomp chomp), the vintage-looking SS ones (Super Grover! And I don't mean 2.0), and I'm on the hunt for harmless, less dark/super graphic super hero ones. I love seeing the joy in his face over certain clothes, knowing that he's expressing himself when he picks even a simple striped shirt. Ah, the simple joy of new-found independence.

- Along with comfort, clothes have to be FUN! We currently have a shirt with a hotdog and hamburger running a race, a hotdog with a "help" sign inside the mouth of a happy shark, and we LOVE the mac 'n cheese BFF shirt. You can't get away with wearing hilarious stuff and fun patterns for very long before you have to start acting all adulty and crap, so do it while you can!

- As I said earlier, reign in the buying. It's not like the outfit will last them 5 years; you'll be lucky to get 4 months out of it. Keep in mind the pieces that you'd like to have: how many t-shirts, jeans, sweats, PJs, etc. This will keep you from going overboard when you see a stack of jeans on sale. Oh, and a great tip I have is to hit up the consignment/thrift stores for some cheap play clothes. You won't care if they get dirty or torn, and knowing that they get some extra life definitely gets the ol' pride flowing.

Anyone else clothing a tot? Any great tips? What's your favorite thing to dress your real-life doll in? ;-) 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wop, Wop

I haven't posted a gardening update in awhile. Actually, I think it was this post in late July. So, over a month. But guess what.

You're not missing much.

The joint looks exactly the same (didn't even take a final picture), except that I've completely neglected it. On purpose.

Know why? The outside cats that hang in our yard. They totally planned a jail break...INTO the garden.

Now, I don't know about you, but the thought of eating food that has officially been "fertilized" with cat droppings (seriously, head back there and you smell it instantly...sigh) is a bit of a turn-off. And the fact that the Dorky Daddy ate some of the tomatoes and developed a weird infection (possibly impetigo, possibly some other freaky thing) makes us wonder, seriously, if it could have come from this. Maybe. Just maybe.

Luckily, I hate tomatoes and Hadley only ate stuff from the garden when it was perfectly secure and safe from cat crap. Whew. Poor Dave, though. :-\

So, I would call this year a complete bust. Hugest. Sigh. Ever. The cost and energy that goes into creating a garden is so damn frustrating when you think of how little you reap when something like this happens. We did get a small amount of good stuff early in the season, but not enough to call it even, I don't think.

Let's just say that since we don't know where we'll be laying our heads come next spring, and since our garden has been so hit-and-miss over the years, I'm a tad gun-shy to start planning. I know that an enclosed space is necessary, with rows and paths. But I'm ultimately determined to be successful and learn from our mistakes, even if EVERY SINGLE YEAR we get slammed with a different one.

And the only thing I can say as far as perspective goes is that I'm incredibly lucky. My grandfather's family relied greatly upon the bounty that their tiny backyard garden provided them (as did many). Everything got canned. Everything got used. Today, we at least have the opportunity to obtain fresh, nutritious fruits and veg all winter long without blinking an eye. In her worst days, she had to scrape for her family's survival.

So, one literally crappy growing season can't outweigh the fact that this is just a hobby. One day, I hope to provide more for my own family, not for myself, but for the memory of my great-grandmother. 

And you'd better believe that I'll be trying out one or two of your recipes when I do, Clara.