Monday, December 5, 2011
And they are right. Bean is a beautiful child. (I have no qualms in saying this since we don't share DNA.) I see how strangers turn to look at her and how she lights up any room she walks into with a happy energy. She rarely meets a stranger and while she loves all the attention, she is also ready to "He'p" someone who is hurt or to ask if someone is "Okay." And each time I see her in action I think "don't mess this up, Julie." I have never felt so terrified as I do thinking about her future. I know all too well some of the things that can really hurt a girl's spirit. I am still putting pieces of myself back together years later. I so want to protect her from the bumps and heartaches of growing up, all the while knowing that is just part of it. But is it too much to hope for a few bumper pads to cushion the blow?
Raising a girl in this "modern world" is tricky business. I believe whether a girl is deemed beautiful or plain, girls are expected to be a long list of juxtapositions: soft but strong, kind but tough, smart but relatable, trusting but cautious, friendly but not inviting, safe but daring, mainstream but creative, etc. And don't get me started on how horrible girls can be to each other (at age 9 or at 40!)
And while i know I cannot control the future, I pray that somehow my life experience will prevent her from having to learn too much the hard way. I pray that her happy energy is not squelched by hard knocks along the way. I pray she can hang on to the self-confidence and loudly proclaim "Hello world! It's my party, glad you came, now get out of my way so I can lead!"
Saturday, December 3, 2011
So lately, I have been convinced that if I had more storage and larger rooms (not to mention a maid) that I would be a much better housekeeper. Seriously, how is that as a stay-at-home-mom with less house to maintain that I do a worse job of it than when I worked and had more house?
But then I made this list:
- I am the child of two "stackers". (My father's home office was a mound of paper and my mom's trick for getting ready for company is to dump it all in baskets or make neat piles.)
- I had few chores as a child. (My father had so many chores on the farm when he was a kid that he was way too easy on what my brother and I were required to do around the house.)
- I hate to pick up. (When I was about 11, my mom went back to work and we had a maid once a week and I recall having to do a mass pick up to get ready for the maid. That seemed so weird -- cleaning up for the maid.)
- I was a very messy kid. (I still have a book my mom bought me called The Big Clean-Up to encourage me to keep my room clean. It didn't work.)
- I have been known to step over something 10 times before I will bend over and pick it up.
- At home, I am lucky if I can find my keys much less my favorite book or that watch I am still missing.
- My creative brain can be highly tolerant of chaos and rejects routine.
- I have trouble putting something back in the same place twice, but in jobs I am able to be very organized unless things get really stressful at which point my desk disappears.
- I sleep in a nest of 3-4 pillows.
- I appreciate my family heirlooms.
- I love to see photos of my friends and family on my table.
- I enjoy my art and collectibles.
- I tend to keep quirky things that bring back memories.
- I save pieces of ribbons, buttons, and cool paper to use in art projects.
- I find it difficult to throw away good cardboard, an old spiral, or the piece that I am not sure what it is but I may need it later.
- I always end up needing the one thing I finally sold, gave away, or threw out.
- I have boxes of clothes from when I was a baby that Jilly has gotten to wear and I love that.
- I have my mom's prom dress.
- I have my prom shoes.
- Trust me, my husband has just as much stuff!
I found this entry in an old journal blog which reminds me why we bought the size home we have and what our goal was for living here. It is good to remember this when I have spent the last few days lamenting the wisdom our choice:
July, 2008: Jeff and I came to an agreement tonight that we wanted to make some changes in our life that buying a larger, more expensive home wouldn’t help us do. Sure, we can afford a house on the lake, but do we want to be slaves to a house payment and then never home to enjoy it? We’d like a little slower pace of life and time to enjoy it. If we buy a little away from the lake, but close enough to get there, we may actually be able to afford for me to stay home and start our family. At age 40, that dream is getting a little more time-sensitive, so if we are going to make this type of life change, the time is now.
And it was the right choice. We adopted Jillian in 2010. I am home with her. I am grateful for both of those things. My mantra needs to be "We have enough." Because we do. In fact, we have more than we need. I need to accept what I have as a gift and figure out a way to be happy with where I am planted.
Which leaves me addressing the stuff. How do we make a life for ourselves in the present if we are bogged down by the stuff of our past and overwhelmed by the stuff gathering as part of our future? I have friends that tell me just to get rid it. Take a photo of what you love and then the item is not taking up space. I have been giving away and selling stuff, but it is hard to let go (see above confessions) when I don't just want to see the item but I want to feel the wood smoothed by many hands touching it, study the scratches and tooth marks on it, and be reminded of how I tripped and scratched the back of that prom shoe. But I am working on letting go of all that so I can make room for what is to come.
I don't really have a nice bow to wrap up this package of thoughts; in reality if I was making a bow I would have misplaced the ribbon, lost the scissors, and stepped on a Duplo block while looking, so I am ending here:
Depression is caused by living in the past.
Anxiety is caused by living in the future.
Happiness is caused by living in the present.
Guess it is time to clean house.
Friday, December 2, 2011
I NEED to be outside every day or I get nutso. And when I'm sad, I REALLY need to be outside. Luckily, today was cold but sunny and my back deck was the perfect spot to escape and soak up some of my personal medicine. I decided to grab my camera when little birds were jumping around the tree, but they flew off before I returned. Disappointed, but not without hope, I sat still in my chair enjoying the sunshine and colors of fall hoping to get a great shot of the birds when he came: the cardinal.
FOOTNOTE: I had my hysterectomy December 2008 and although my pre-cancerous girl parts were horrible looking, it had not progressed to cancer. Some would think that was terrible -- that I could have had another chance at a child of my own. However, the chance of this turning to cancer were far, far greater than the chance of my getting pregnant and the fact that Hubby lost his mother way too young to cancer made the choice very clear.
In starting this blog, I have been sifting thru an older and neglected blog I started for my art & memoir writings pre-Jillian. I came across this piece I wrote in August 2007 in a fabulous writing course I took when I was a teacher in Texas. I have been thinking alot lately of how amazing it is that Hubby and I even got to "here" and know that it was a long, winding road. Rediscovering this memoir brought it all back and reminds me of an old saying (and more recently a Brad Paisley song) that God doesn't always answer our prayers the way we expect...
The Childless Mother
A Memoir By Julie Grau
written August 2007
The couple ahead walks into the sanctuary. I capture a glimpse of the woman’s smile as she looks up at the man soothing the baby cradled in his strong arms. Pick, pick, pick. The scab splits wide open and I find myself unexpectedly nursing the injury as it oozes fresh juices. My mother always told me not to pick scabs. “It is best for wounds to heal correctly inside or you end up with a nasty mess brewing beneath the top layer,” she’d lecture as she applied band-aids to the latest dent on my shin. I’ve been trying to let this particular scab heal for a while now, but it continues to fester. What will it take to heal the wound of being a childless mother?
At least once a week I am forced to face the pain. There’s the curiosity of my students whose parents are mostly still in their twenties: “Why don’t you have kids?”; “Don’t you want kids?”; “Aren’t you too old to have kids?” My favorite came from a student who always tells it like it is: “If you have kids now they’ll be teased when they are in school because you’ll be old like a grandmother!” Then there’s the fact that in fast-growing McKinney, I meet new people all the time who invariably ask the question, “Do you have kids?” Hmm… how should I answer today? There’s the simple leave-this-topic-alone answer, “No.” But then again, there’s my usual funny answer, “Yes, if you count my husband and my dog.” Of course, there’s the serious answer, “No, we’ve been working on it for awhile now.” Or, the one I’d love to say, “It is none of your #@$* business!”
The responses to my childlessness often tell me a great deal about each person’s character:
· The well-meaning – “I have a cousin who got pregnant right after they adopted.”
· The optimist – “My sister had beautiful twins at 43.
· The faithful – “God has a plan for you.”
· The irksome – “My friend adopted the cutest little China doll. She’s fun to dress up.”
· The realist – “You are so lucky. You can travel a lot and sleep late!”
· The clueless – “Well, trying is the fun part!”
Most of these people have valid points: I don’t have dirty diapers to change, soccer games to attend, or nannies to pay; not to mention that I am about to turn 40 which would make me a 50 year old PTO member. My time is my own – shared only with a husband who loves me dearly and a dog that is happy with a tummy rub. Jeff and I can rent rated R movies without the concern of “little ears,” sleep until noon on Saturdays, and travel at the drop of a hat. I have the advantage of caring for children in the role of auntie, godmother, teacher, and playmate - reading happy books, playing with fun toys, seeing cute movies, and giving cranky kids back to their mother. I suspect this is why grandparents enjoy grandkids…all the fun and little of the work. And Lord, I do understand the work required from my years as a babysitter, a nanny, and even a day care director.
Yesterday, I played mom to the seven boy "Bryn Mawr Street Gang". Why did they knock on my door? Maybe because I didn’t just tell their parents when they caused trouble, but I also learned their names, let them play in the sprinklers, talked about skateboarding, and let them pet Ginger. So in the bloodied-knee scooter incident, I was called on for band-aids and a phone to call home. Funny, since most of the kids were just as close to their doors as to mine. Perhaps I am more mothering than their mothers? Is it not better to be a universal mother than to just raise one or two? Even my old friend Kimberly’s three kids benefited from my mothering; Kimberly called after I left to tell me her kids wished I lived in San Antonio. Her oldest even came home from a trip I helped her pack for and insisted on doing her own laundry “the way Miss Julie taught me.” Hmm, that makes ten kids mothered in just two weeks.
As a teacher, I find that my classroom becomes a safe home for students. Tears? Anger? Frustration? Go see Mrs. Grau. Some students I barely know have begged for refuge in my room from their daily anxiety. So why seek me out when in need of mothering? Certainly not because I am easy on students: I demand hard work and expect personal responsibility for behavior - even behavior slightly beyond their control. I suspect mine is the only mothering some students ever really know since their young mothers struggle with revolving boyfriends, low-wage jobs, drug addictions, and various other woes of the low-socioeconomic population of McKinney.
Still, with all this mothering, I long to give my soul to a child of my own. I want a child as smart as my husband and as creative as me. A child who laughs easily, sings happily, and plays with abandon. We have tried it all to find this child, but God has not readied one for us yet. I keep playing an old movie in my head where a little angel is waiting while God is readying him for the right time on earth and the best family to meet his needs. Are we not right for someone yet? What else do we need to do? We’ve certainly done all we can to help God along: charts, temperatures, pills, shots, in-vitro, and everything in between. We’ve even been to various seminars on foreign adoption, domestic adoption, and fostering–to-adopt. Mom made a powerful statement as we discussed the possibility of becoming foster parents: “I think you’d be great at fostering, but I want to see you bring joy into your lives, not more heartache and pain.” I know she’s right. I recognize the signs that I’m not thoroughly healed from our lack of fertility to cope with bringing a child into our home only to have to return it to the parent that neglected or abused it. Forget picking a scab – that would be ripping it off and taking new skin! Besides, Jeff’s not ready to let go of the dream of having our own children. Am I? I can’t quit picturing the photo of our DNA matched up: those three perfect circles in a petri dish; those three blastocysts that I had hoped would grow into three beautiful souls; those three little angels that just weren’t ready for the world.
So I remain a childless mother. Can I find peace in this existence? Can I give this pained heart back to God and move on? The truth is that I love to mother kids and give them back. Sometimes I even prefer it that way. I delight in being the willing listener, the wisdom giver, and even the mischief maker to my friends’ children. Can I relish in helping them grow without having to pay the bills? I take pleasure in getting a new group of students and helping them discover their potential. Can I savor the time spent helping them blossom during the time that I have them? Could it be that God wants me to heal and prepare for my own child by accepting my current assignment as universal mother? Am I willing to be the stitcher of wounds, the healer of hearts, and the grower of knowledge for the children of other mothers? I’m not sure I’ve healed enough to have the answers. The scab remains tender – only recently formed. But here’s what I do know: I love having kids in my life. To that end, my heart responds, “Let the mothering begin.”
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I rarely ease in to anything. I either do nothing or I jump in with both feet. Evidently, my daughter has this same trait as she decided Tuesday afternoon that she was ready to poop in the potty -- catching me quite off-guard when she actually DID!! (She is 22 3/4 months old so not a potty genius like her friend M.D. at 18 months.) There I was without a camera, stickers, M&Ms or anything but a high five to commemorate the moment.
So she spent a few hours Tuesday and all day Wednesday running back and forth to the bathroom because heaven-forbid she just use a little potty chair like other kids... we had to go on the BIG potty which meant Mommy (me) would have to bend over (remember, folks, I am over 40 here) and lift her wiggly 27 lbs. onto the potty and then help steady her little booty from falling in since I didn't have a seat insert. I finally got smart enough to put a step stool in front of the potty, but I bought a seat insert with so much cushie for her tushie that I am back to helping her get on the toilet.
We ended Wednesday with only one turd on the floor and a few minor wet spots all without a single tangible reward besides a high five. I was pretty proud of both of us!! For those keeping score:
Potty: 3 poops and 3 pees
Carpet: 1 poop and 1 pee
Mommy's lap: 1 pee
Couch: 1 pee
And then came today. She willingly went potty right when she woke up so I didn't put a diaper back on her. To jump start the day, we watched a video about girls going potty and she started to show some interest in the smaller potty chair (which is kind of gross, but would at least give us a fast option and much easier on my back). We had a few accidents, but by noon the score was:
Potty: 1 1/2 poops and 3 pees
Footstool: 1 pee
Carpet: 1 1/2 poops (I have to add here that when she makes these perfectly formed poops on the floor she freaks out and starts screaming "Icky! Icky!" and runs to me like it is a snake that is going to bite her. I have had to hold in my laughter every time.)
...and it all went down hill from there. Evidently the novelty wears off about 36 hours in. I put her in pull ups for nap and when I tried to take them back off I was met with kicks and screaming "Mine!" She pulled them down for an after nap potty and eventually took them off herself, but refused to sit on the potty for the next two hours so I finally put them back on her and called it a day. Final score - Bad Attitude: 2
And for the record, I am willing to bet that "Shit or get off the pot" was first said by someone toilet training a toddler at the time. I am seriously considering installing a chaise lounge and hiring a personal masseuse if we have to keep this up for much longer.
(P.S. I promised to show you the disaster I created in my kitchen cooking, but that has now turned into a complete house disaster that might lead to some sort of inspector showing up at my house so instead I am including a photo of the disaster she made of me in just 24 hours...today's look is probably worse, but I refuse to look!)
Yup, this would have been easier in my 20s. But then again, it wouldn't have been with Bean and THAT wouldn't be okay.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
As luck would have it, this came just as my neighbor offered me a slew (how much is a slew, really?) of fresh picked but over ripe pears. So, off to pinterest I went in search of a recipe for pear something or other.... about 5 recipes later that sounded just okay, I ended up creating my own recipe for Gingered Pear Honey.
So, for my first real post on my blog, I will impress you with my cooking skills with an original recipe:
Julie's Crockpot Gingered Pear Honey
2 dozen fresh picked tiny pears peeled and cored
1 small can crushed pineapple
5-6 squares of candied Ginger (I love this stuff -- like candy to me!)
3 c. Sugar
Dump it all in crockpot and stir until just mixed. Put on low overnight (6-8 hours). Turn off and let cool so you don't burn the crap out of yourself and blend in a blender or with a hand blender to thin consistency. Pour into sterilized jars and keep in refrigerator or if you have a canner, go for it.
Tomorrow I may show you more of my skills...and just how horrible my kitchen looks!!
So, here’s the deal. After two years as a stay-at-home mom of a now toddler who is kicking my ass daily, I have decided it is time to blog about my experiences as an over 40 mom raising a beautifully exhausting nearly 23 month old girl I call Bean. I often say to people “This is why people should have kids in their 20s” as I am chasing her around — thus the title of this blog.
Of course, like all good mommies, this blog will also create a "history" for our family of our antics, our challenges, and our fun moments. However, this blog will also be alot about me -- the Bean gets most of the attention these days, so I need all the attention I can get elsewhere. If you know me, you will know I am often honest to a fault and often an "over sharer" and certainly don't consider many (if any) topics to be private. Therefore, this blog will be a random collection of stories I have written, art I have created, disasters I have made, ah-ha moments I have had, and more than likely a chance to bitch about something such as my husband's dirty bathroom, needing to get serious about getting healthier, and anything else that annoys me.
So, there you have it. My first post. Welcome to my world.