this is 35.

A little over a month ago I packed up my old, chipped coffee mug and my lucky green Sharpie marker–and left the only job I’d ever had.

For 13 years I’d loved that place. That job. Those co-workers. But over the past year I’ve learned to listen to the Universe when she whispers–even if what she’s saying scares me. And lately–she’d been raising her voice.

So I listened. I packed it all up. And gave that place and that job–and those co-workers–all my love and all the peace signs.

It was time.

. . .

I turned 35 last month. My baby turned 4–his golden birthday. My mom turned 60. And my big boy is headed to kindergarten in three short weeks. All of that–and an upcoming change in latitude for our family–had me feeling like this was the summer to be present.

This was the summer to unplug–to soak it all in. Because time–it’s fleeting. It’s precious and it’s fleeting. And for whatever reason– I could really feel it flying by. I wanted to live it–really live it–before summer cooled to fall.

I turned off all the notifications on my iPhone–and unplugged my computer. I turned off all the bad news on TV and hid the iPad. We got out there. I was present with my self–and my people. And we lived it up.

The adventures were good–and the memories were made (more on that later this month). And for all the active yin packed into our summer days, we packed an equal amount of lazy yang into our summer nights.

It was an awesome summer–and I’m grateful.

. . .

It’s August now–and if I inhale deep enough I can smell fall. My heart and soul feel happy–and re-energized. So does my brain–unplugging for a bit will do that for you.

It’s time to figure out what’s next for me–for all my Markers (even the green Sharpie). Remembering to slow down as much as we speed up. Staying present–really present. More writing. A new place–a new job. A new school for Johnny. Some more unplugging, for sure–because it felt so good. So many adventures await–for all of us.

This is 35. And it’s a good place to be.

us. on the morning of my 35th. photo credit: Pops.

on saying goodbye to the crib.

I remember shopping for their cribs years before we had them. Back when we decided to start trying. Back when I thought you decided to have a baby–and had one nine months later. Back when I thought *that* was how it worked.

It would be years before that crib–or the babies it held–would finally make their way into our home.

. . .

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My friends bought us his crib when he was a few months old–the second best gift anyone’s ever given us–second to him. He’d slept in a bassinet in our room since he was born. Because I wanted him there–right there next to me. But it was time.

I remember the first night he slept up in his nursery. I sat in the rocking chair across from his crib for almost an hour after I’d laid him down–watching his little chest rise and fall through the crib’s slats.

I remember thanking my lucky stars for him–for all of it. I remember thinking it was going so quickly though–he was growing so fast. And I remember crying–because I felt like I was saying goodbye to my baby.

. . .

It’s been four years. We’ve had two babies sleep in–and climb out of–that crib. And we’ve decided we’re not having any more babies. So it’s time to say goodbye.

Goodbyes are hard for me–especially this one. And I’ve shed a few tears. Because I’m saying goodbye to the crib–and to the babies. And because I’m realizing time really is fleeting. It’s precious–and it’s fleeting.

No more nights spent with my arms hanging over the crib rails–humming and singing–and rubbing tiny arched backs. No more stealth exits creeping from the floor next to the crib to the door–after staying until they were really asleep. No more way-too-early morning smiles from a happy baby who couldn’t wait for his mommy to scoop him up above the sides of the crib he loved to gum.

Goodbye crib–and goodbye babies. That’s a hard goodbye for a mom who wasn’t sure she’d ever have either.

And goodbye time–precious, fleeting time. I’m keenly aware of your passing now. Thanks for the memories.

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. . .

Sometimes it’s all too much–this world of ours.

Thinking of all the mommies who lost their babies this morning (because no matter how old they are, they’re always our babies)–and holding mine a little closer this evening. And praying for peace there, here and everywhere. XOXO.

on saying sorry.

I have this dear, old friend.

We were friends in grade school. We were friends in high school. We were roommates in college. And we lived together after college.

So we really grew up together.

She stood up to the 7th grade bully when he called me Angie Flatfield. That asshole’s nickname for me stuck for years, but then things changed in a big way. Boom. In your face, 7th grade bully. (And that’s the first time I’ve ever cursed on this blog (sorry mom), but it was warranted. I still get pissed when I think about that little jerk.)

She wiped my tears when my high school sweetheart broke my sweet heart. I remember her telling me life was going to break my heart a million times over–but I shouldn’t stop living it. And I should *never* stop loving. Those might have been the wisest words ever spoken.

In college, she was everything a college roommate should be. Late night runs to the Illini Orange for tampons and Advil–and every other oddball thing they sold there. All night study sessions fueled by candy and Mountain Dew. The girls’ nights out wearing stringy crop tops and black flared pants (probably walking to the bars with no coat in the dead of winter). And the girls’ nights in wearing our green clay face masks and sweats. And all the dates with all the guys I’m so glad we didn’t marry–there were some real doozies.

Every double-dog dare she ever gave me–I nailed them all. Because I loved to make her laugh–and I loved laughing with her.

We held on to each other tight after graduation too–two small town, scared girls in a big, real world.

And then it all fell apart.

Our friendship ended in our mid-twenties. For a hundred different reasons.

I hurt her. And she hurt me. So we were both hurt–and with that hurt came anger. I did what I do best when someone hurts me or makes me angry–or when I’m embarrassed by the hurt and anger I cause someone else. I delete them from my life altogether. Every last bit of them.

It’s a coping mechanism. And one I do best. Or did best. I’m growing and learning. And when you know better, you do better.

Oh, and also–it doesn’t work.

Because when you really love someone–it really hurts when you hurt them and they hurt you. For a long time. And no matter how hard you try–you can’t delete them. They’re always there.

When I fell in love with Danny –and when I stayed in love with him. When the doctors told me we couldn’t have babies. When they placed Johnny in my arms. When they laid Deano on my chest. When I’m just sitting on my back porch–watching my kids play in the backyard.

I think about her–and I miss her. I wonder what she’s doing now. I wonder if she’s married. I wonder if she’s a mom now, too. I think about all those tender, precious moments we’ve missed in each other’s lives over the past ten years. And it takes my breath away.

. . .

I found her on Instagram a few weeks ago. I wasn’t looking, but she popped onto my phone’s screen like the universe just knew it was time.

And it was. It was time to say sorry.

So I just wrote a little–which was hard for me. Because I’m a writer. I told her the truth–and I apologized–which was hard for me. Because I’m human.

And I told her I missed her. Because I do. I really do.

. . .

I heard back from her yesterday. I’ve probably read and re-read her response at least fifty times. It was good–so good. And gracious.

I can’t speak for her. But for me, hearing from her flooded my heart with more of the good memories–and drowned out some of the bad.

I don’t know what the future will bring for our friendship. But I’d rather face that future from this side of the apology–and this side of the forgiveness. It’s a good side for me–and probably for her too.

So here’s to saying sorry–and meaning it. Here’s to forgiveness–and granting it. And here’s to this really dear, old friend I have–who never placed a statute of limitation on either.

the first snow day.

I just tucked two sleepy boys into their warm, cozy beds.

And I have a husband–and two DVRd shows (Better Call Saul and The People vs OJ Simpson, don’t judge) all queued up–waiting for me downstairs. But I want to post this blog entry right now, because I want to remember it forever.

. . .

Today was our first official snow day. The boys only go to preschool every other day–and this year’s one and only snow day happened to fall on a school day for them. So I called into work–and we really did it up right.

I cranked the Christmas Spirit and decided to leave the flannel sheets on the bed for another week.

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My house smelled like Christmas Magic.

I had three cups of coffee this morning. Three. Boom.

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That’s butter and coconut oil floating on top–in case you were wondering. It’s the only way to go with your cup–or three–of joe.

We hunkered down and watched the blizzard roll in over our pond. We watched and listened to the wind blow and blow–until all our windows were completely snow-covered.

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Someday I’ll miss having a backyard full of plastic crap. Someday.

We jumped on the bed–for an hour straight.

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Look at them. It was like I’d told them they’d won something. So happy–they both peed their pants a little. That’s when you know you’re having the time of your life. I do that too sometimes–when life gets really good.

We made snow ice cream.

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And if you’re going to tell me you aren’t supposed to eat snow because of air pollution or whatever–just don’t. We had 1/2 cup. It rocked. We’re still alive. End of story.

Daddy made it home a little early and we all cuddled up in our bed. And napped.

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Sweet, sweet snow day naps. I love you.

Sweet, sweet snow days. I really love you.

. . .

It was a really, really good day–this first snow day of ours. Only a few melt-downs (no pics of those, sorry) in between Legos and Imaginext and four games of Monopoly.

There was way more good than bad happening around here today–for this mom and her Marker boys. And I soaked it all in.

I’m leaving it all here–so I can come back and visit whenever I need to. Or they need to.

I hope there was way more good than bad happening around you today too. And I hope you all enjoyed the snow day of 2016. Until next year, blizzards. XOXO.

 

for the love of all things art mart. how one little letter written on art mart stationary changed our lives forever.

I got the call sitting in the second stall of the ladies room at my office. I recognized the phone number right away. Our attorney had a potential birthmother–she was due in August. And she just knew this was it–this was our baby.

She asked me to make a scrapbook–to put together some pictures and include a handwritten letter. And she asked me to drop it by her office that evening–so she could share it with this young woman.

I remember her saying this scrapbook was very important–and I knew it was. And I remember her saying time was of the essence.

Time was of the essence. Ya, it was–and I didn’t know how to scrapbook.

My knees started shaking–and my hands too. And I’m sure there were tears in my eyes.

I think I told my boss I needed to run an errand–I don’t remember now. I do remember my car practically driving itself down Vine Street though–straight to my happy place.

. . .

My mom would take us to Art Mart all the time when we were young. My brother and I would share ham and cheese croissants and a Pellegrino–and my mom would sit with us under their café umbrellas, quietly and peacefully filling an hour or two of her long day.

In college, I lived on the east side of campus. And I was an Art Mart regular–I never strayed from those ham and cheese croissants, but I traded my bubbly water for anything black, bold and caffeinated. I’d study for hours and hours under those café umbrellas–refilling the good coffee over and over again.

After I graduated, I started working in Urbana. I’d swing by Art Mart for my caffeine fix before work. And sometimes I’d swing by for cheese and olives–and a bottle of wine–after work.

When our attorney told me to make that scrapbook for our potential birthmother, I drove straight there.

I bought a coffee and a little box of pink, flowery stationary cards. I sank into a chair at my favorite table and started writing to her–under a café umbrella.

I don’t remember exactly what I wrote. I think I wrote about Danny–and about myself. And I think I wrote about us–and our story. I know I apologized because I wasn’t a scrapbooker. But I told her I hoped my words in this special little box from a special little store in my hometown would be good enough-and she’d choose us anyway.

Our birthmother said she knew we were the ones right when our attorney handed her that box of pink, flowery stationary cards–she just had a feeling. And the rest–as they say–is history.

. . .

As a mother, I have a whole new appreciation for Art Mart. I’ve fallen in love with its owners, Courtney and Brian (and their two boys). And I’ve fallen in love with their toy store too–especially the laxative train table. Anybody else’s kids always get the urge to poop when they play with the Art Mart train table? What. In. The. World.

They opened their new bigger (14,000 square feet) location today–the old Carter’s Interiors building at 1705 S Prospect Avenue–and I couldn’t be more excited. They’ll have all our same favorites–pretty stationary, ham and cheese croissants and the good coffee. But now they’re going to offer extended hours, a wine tasting area, a larger selection of cheeses, salads and sandwiches, more baked goodies, more cool clothing, more homegoods and a bigger toy store with more activities for the kids. Win, win, win, win, win, win and win.

And they’ll still have those Art Mart café umbrellas (they’re getting them cleaned right now)–so you know where I’ll be with my coffee and my ham and cheese croissant. Here are some pics I snapped this morning. It’s really incredible–kudos to the Art Mart Crew. Check them out today–we’ll see you there.

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the best selfie ever. me, and art mart owners courtney (behind the green onions) and brian mckay

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alllllll the toys.

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alllll the croissants

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alllll the wine

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allllll the cakes

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allllll the cheese

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alllllll the homegoods

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alllll the stationary

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alllllll the coolest stuff

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alllllll the fly clothes and accessories

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alllllll the ingredients

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alllll the treats

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thumbs up from us

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we may or may not eat all three meals here today.

on the grandmas who haunt us.

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My grandma Rosemary died when I was ten. My memories of her are few and far between–mostly pieced together from old pictures and home videos.

She was a registered nurse–delivering hundreds of babies in a small town northeast of here. And she was a farmer’s wife. She served–in every sense of the word.

I can’t remember her face or her voice. But I remember the sound she made when she walked. She was always moving–she really never sat down. She always wore slacks (she called them slacks, not pants. also davenport, not couch. and supper, not dinner.) and when she walked–she swished. It was the busiest sound–swish, swish, swish.

I remember sitting in her kitchen the night she died–the absence of her and her sound were deafening.

. . .

Our first night home from the hospital with Johnny was a long one. I was afraid to put him down. Every time he cried, I picked him up and held him on my chest.

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I was a new adoptive mother–trying to bond with my son. And trying my best to manage the stress that came with the hours that felt like years before our birthparents gave their consent. I was mentally and physically exhausted–I really don’t think I’d slept at all since his birth.

I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing–I felt totally inadequate–and I think he knew it. We were up most of the night.

I’d sent Danny to the guest room to sleep hours before. And I remember finally giving up at 4am–swaddling my newborn baby the way they’d shown me in the hospital and laying him down wide-awake in his bassinette.

I turned off the light and curled around my pillow. I closed my eyes. And I heard her.

Swish, swish, swish. I could hear that swishing sound. She was moving–in circles–all around his bassinette. And then I felt her–sitting next to me on the edge of the bed–her weight pulling the comforter down tight around my body.

I remember opening my eyes–wanting to see her. But there was no one there.

His bassinette was rocking all by itself next to me though–and he was sound asleep.

. . .

I know I was tired. I know I was probably grasping for something–anything to get me through that long first night of motherhood. But I also know what I heard–and felt. And I like to think if there was ever a time for a little visit–she would have picked that one night I needed her most.

I’ve experienced a few other “coincidences”–as my skeptical Aunt Mimi calls them–since then. Ha. But I’ll save those blog posts for another day.

Who else–anyone else out there know the feeling? I’d love to hear your stories too.

realer than real deal holyfield.

I may or may not be listening to that song right now. It’s Friday, lay off.

. . .

We ordered Chinese for dinner twice this week–and Pizza Hut once. But I also cooked a few healthy meals for my family too because I like to cook–and I really like to cook healthy meals for my family.

I have three laundry baskets and all three are exploding clean clothes all over our bedroom floor today. But the laundry is done–and the dishes are too–because I’m home all day on Fridays. And I feel accomplished when the hamper and the kitchen sink are empty.

There are board games everywhere–strewn across the floor of our basement–scattered in between 7000 Imaginext figures and 9000 Legos and puzzles and trains and play food (and probably some half-eaten real food too because I have little kids and that’s how they roll). But the rest of my house is spotless and organized because I want it to be–and I don’t mind cleaning and organizing.

I yelled at my kids before school today. And we haven’t built a snowman or been sledding yet at all this winter–oh the horror, I know. But I know I’m a good mom. I genuinely love spending all my free time with my kids–just not outside in the freezing cold. Ha. I know they feel my love from all angles.

I’ve been lazy this week and I’ve worn the same pair of yoga pants and an old college sweatshirt every day since Wednesday. But today I ran and barred because health and fitness are important to me. And tonight I’m going to make-up/big-hair/hot-pants-it-up because we’re going out and I like feeling pretty–and looking fashionable.

I’m nervous and anxious–about everything and nothing at all. And I always want everyone to like me. But I’m still open and honest–and authentic–and I put it all out there even if it scares me and no one likes it–or me. I’m proud of myself because writing–and living–this way takes gumption.

I think it makes us feel better to know we’re all kind of a mess. But I think it’s important to remember we’re all kind of amazing too. And to celebrate both.

There’s beauty in the breakdown. And beauty–in the beauty. It’s important to appreciate that juxtaposition.

Here are a few pictures Johnny took with my iPhone last week–proof that my bed’s not ever made, the laundry (and apparently every board game we own) really did explode and the real me is almost always no-make-up/no-big-hair/no filter/barre-sweaty.

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But these pictures are also my favorite pictures anyone has ever taken of me–of us.

Because they’re real–the real deal. They’re proof of just how hard I love them. And proof for years to come that even when it was messy–it was awesome.

I’m a mess. But I’m awesome too. I’m not apologizing for either–and neither should you. There’s beauty in all of our real-deals. It’s time to celebrate it.

Happy Weekend, XOXO.