Memory Maker

It’s summertime and my daughter is exploring the world around her, discovering something new each day. I am seeing the world anew through her eyes, and it is glorious.

At 15 months, I know my daughter is too young to remember the things we do and the good times we have. I often wonder what her first memory will be. Will it be one of our summertime traditions in the making?

Will it be that bite of the first juicy strawberry of the season, picked directly from the field?

Strawberries!

Maybe it’ll be the feeling of flying through the air, to be caught in her daddy’s strong arms…

Up in the Air!

Or perhaps the feeling of riding along on a bike, past the lakes and the trees…

Bike ride!

Will it be our shared dinner while camping, her high chair attached firmly to a picnic table, surrounded by the trees and birds?

Camping!

Or cold water from the hose on a hot day?

Pool!

Maybe it’ll be Thursday nights, when we pick up our weekly veggies straight from the farm.

Veggies!

Or a face full of Babcock ice cream.

Ice cream!

Maybe she’ll remember being caught in the rain on a warm summer night.

Summer rain!

Or our Saturday morning tradition of bagels and cream cheese.

Saturday morning!

It could be as simple as a hike in the park, listening quietly to the sound of nature from her mama’s back…

Hiking!

It could be something as quintessentially Madison as the Union Terrace on a Friday night.

The Terrace!

Or simply holding on to each other as we swing through the air.

Swing!

In the years to come, she may not remember this time in her life. But my hope is that she’ll feel it…in the tartness of a strawberry, the coolness of a pool, and in that way the summer enchants us all.

– ALW

Busy Day, Busy People

I always thought I’d have a great little library for my kids. You know – the book shelf that is filled with great colored spines. Books that are tall and proud. Books that share the classics, the standards, interspersed with books that share my love of art, of the tangible, of the world. As an “ahem,” educated person, I’m supposed to be modeling my UNWAVERING LOVE OF READING with my little people. Good, beautiful books. Ones that we read over and over, ones that we all sit down and savor together.

After H was born, I did what a “good” parent does. Every day we’d pull out his board books. He’d chew on them, and I’d try and read them. Later on, I’d sit in a rocking chair while he turned pages faster than I could even tell what was on the page.  Then he’d whine and complain and squirm off of my lap.

Not that I was giving him the Best reading material. Big Beautiful Tall Books are Expensive. Our book collection was mostly finds from Garage Sales and Goodwill. Read – most of our books were (are) pre-broken in, dingy and a bit old. Some not even current titles. Some you can only find in antique book collections. Some that never should have made it to the Garage Sale.

You see, (oh, am I admitting this now to the general world?), I don’t really read fiction books.  This one reality has caused MUCH anxiety in my life.  If I don’t “read” books, will my kids? Will they grow up to love the written word?  Will I be shunned as a bad parent?  For Heaven’s sakes, will they be LITERATE?  

My mom is a voracious reader, and as a kid, I loved a good book. I read through the middle school paper back collection in my first year in that building.  I worked at a bookstore for several years.  It’s not that i don’t like reading. Given enough time and a nice long vacation on a beach or with a lot of train time and no children, I’m sure to finish a good solid fiction book.  

But here is the thing – I do read.  I skim non-fiction books from the library. I read magazines about art, architecture, and home living. I read sewing patterns and recipes in cookbooks and then follow their directions or sometimes make up my own. I read email, Facebook, blogs, and the newspaper online. I read out loud funny and ridiculous letters to the editor in my Food Coop’s Reader (gotta get a good laugh over the folks that complain about the Oatscream Machine being broken down). I read travel books. I read the signs at the zoo, and the menu at the bakery. I read signs on the street during our walks and bike rides. I read directions to the museum, and the little wall cards that describe the crazy art that we’re viewing. I read the bus map, and the calendar when trying to schedule fun things for our family to do.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise to me – or to any of you – that my FAVORITE kids book – one that I will read over and over and over – is an old copy of Busy Day Busy People by Tibor Gergely that I picked up at the Dig and Save.  Ah, Busy Day Busy People might be the best book of all time. Page by Page, the book describes the life of busy people from sun up to sun down.  As people are waking, bakers are baking, and construction workers are hauling dirt.  People go to work, go to the doctor.  People are taking public transportation and going out to eat, and news reporters are delivering the stories of the day while families regather at the end of the day. 

Busy People

The other day my husband and I were reviewing our shared Google calendars via Google chat (we were both at work). He was going here, I was going there.  He’d pick up the kids from daycare, I’d be home in time to swoop them up for lessons or a playdate of some sort while he went to the gym.  Then he’d come back home in time for me to meet some friends and then go grab some coffee while I worked for a few more hours and he put the kids to bed and did some needed chores around the house.  At the end of the chat, he said (ok, chatted) “Are we too busy?”  It’s a question we get frequently, and something we talk through alot, just to make sure.  

Go, Go, Go!

But the thing is – We aren’t.  Our family likes to go, do, be.  If we could be in the middle of it all, every night in the city, we would.  And on my days off I’d drive to the country and enjoy the trees, and then head back for some delicious food and an art show on a street where people bustle past midnight.  Or maybe I’d choose an evening on the lake with the kids looking at the stars and pointing out constellations, while inhaling enormous smores or counting fireflies.  The world is big, and we want to explore.  Some folks are happy laying low, living quiet in the trees.  We like to visit them on the weekends.   

Every person, every parent, every family has to figure out what makes them Go. I think about that book often, how every page, every person resonates somewhere deep inside my bones, my decisions.  It resonates in the spot that I suppose Walden and stacks of novels do for others.   

And at the end of our chat that day, my husband wrote to me “Busy Day, Busy People!”  I just smile and laughed. Impressed that he ended our conversation with a literary reference.

– EC

Where My Girls At?

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m going to share with you what women talk about when they get together: Gravity. And specifically, what gravity does to our chests.

The changes that happen for women’s chests start for some early, others late, but is such a visible metamorphosis that the world witnesses each stage, from painful nubbins to grown-up nubbins or more. For some, each month also marks changes, as the cycles of our bodies dictate an ebb and flow.

Perhaps one of the largest – literally – changes my friends and I talk about is what happened to our chests during pregnancy, post pregnancy and beyond.

When we were pregnant one of the first signs of change to our bodies was the growth of our chests. After pregnancy, for those who are able to and chose to nurse had ever-changing fluctuations of milk. While producing milk, it isn’t uncommon to constantly manipulate your chest to feel which might be full, which might be empty, etc. This is as easy to explain in writing as what kissing feels like.

Then, the “after” stage, when the milk dries up. What happens is possibly more shocking than the growth or milk production, since the slackness that ensues is the remainder of the skin that grew and contracted. What’s left is, well, not much, as if all of the stuffing was removed. What’s left needs serious support to even mimic what existed before. I remember when I was pregnant friends who had already had children shared funny stores:

“You can just roll them up into a bra.” 

“They’re like two strips of bacon.” 

“I look like an orangutang.” 

And one of  my favorites, “They’re like flour sacks.”

Is this true? Well, yes.

So when sharing drinks with friends a few nights ago we spent a good amount of time discussing how gravity has effected our bodies post-baby. All in fun, we shared stories about pregnancy and delivery and easily slipped into the area that again, is the most visible: our chests. We cackled and guffawed and, yes, even hooted about the mighty, the fallen and the fruitful.

– MD

Working Stiff

I recently got a new job. I haven’t started yet, but it will be a good change for me and an incredible opportunity for my family. I’m headed back into non-profit-ish work, where I started my career.

I am looking forward to it, but I have also have been up at night and unable to fall back asleep in the middle of the night. For purely selfish reasons.

See, with my new job I will now need to work five days a week. I know, cry me a river. Most people work at least five days a week or on schedules that don’t fall into a “standard” 9 to 5 work environment, or in the Midwest, the 8 to 5 workday.

At my current job I worked five days a week, but in planning for maternity leave I approached my supervisor and asked to go down to four days, with Fridays off. I was fortunate that there was another woman who had done the same, and luckily, when I came back to work after 11 weeks, I was only in the office Monday through Thursday.I’ve had this schedule for 19 months.

Those first few months back to work were hellish. I rarely spoke about it to my co-workers, because who wants to hear how tired someone is, but honestly, I had a nocturnal baby and was going on, like 4 hours of sleep a night. Total. I would spend Fridays napping whenever C did and happy if we got out for a walk.

Then we hit our stride. She got older, got on a schedule, and we started connecting with other parents with similar schedules. I started smuggling her into a toddler story time at the incredible new library on the other side of town or we headed to a great play area. We went out for coffee with friends, had lunch together, and in nicer weather, C tolerated me slogging her to garage sales or St. Vinnie’s. And yes, when she napped in the afternoon, I often found myself doing the same more often than not. What a difference it made for our family! We rolled into the weekend, and even if I didn’t run errands, I never, ever felt rushed during the weekend and honestly, have never, ever felt guilty about working.

But now I do. I do because now our special day, our Friday, is gone. Soon. I’ve been fortunate and had opportunities in the past two years to take different work, but it was never a great fit until this new gig came along. This is a great fit and it means that our special day is gone.

My husband reminds me that it’s not like it’s the last time she and I will ever have a special day together. She’s older and loves her daycare and we love it, too. She probably has more fun with her buddies at daycare than with me, but I always felt that I had *it*, that elusive balance between work and life. And now I can feel it slipping away and I haven’t even started the new job.

I know, cry me a river. This comes from a place of privilege. I also know that yes, she will be fine and our family will adjust and that I’ll take time off here and there so that we can have special days to roll into the weekend. This isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning. And C won’t notice at all. It’s really me.

So as my lip quivers as I type this and each time I think about it, I know that this is good. It will just take some time. Some adjusting. And maybe a few sneaky naps on the weekend.

– MD

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