Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Anatomy of a birthday party

2 cute boys, age 7 and 9
1 mom, 1 dad (divorced)
1 stepdad, stepsister, and stepaunts and uncles
1 ex-almost-stepmom, with ex-almost-stepbrothers and stepsisters
A smattering of other friends and children, to include an uncle (who was in prison), an ex-boyfriend's mom, and a college roommate

Who knew life would ever be so complex?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting back into it

I know! I'm so hit and miss with this blogging thing! So I'm trying something new- an app for my iPhone so I can blog on the go, wherever I am. I'm also going to not stress so much about writing long posts. I intimidate myself with my own expectations- and then I usually just stop. So this post is trying this new app out (complete with quick picture upload!) and re-engaging with my blog. Because so much really is happening around the Rock House! Especially now that a new addition is on the way!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, July 19, 2010

Baby Shoes

I was cleaning out the boys' closets the other day, and I found their stash of baby shoes.

Scuffed toes, shredded shoe laces, and worn out heels-- shoes that helped them learn to walk, to run, to play.

I carefully held each pair and was flooded with memories of chubby little baby boy legs and feet, and I looked over at the boys and wondered where all of that has gone. 

So quickly, they have grown into elementary school boys, with knobby knees and ankles and thin faces.

So quickly, they don't quite need me like they used to.  I think that is the hardest change to acknowledge.

I am glad to see them growing, thriving, but I feel the loss of their babyhood, their chubby cheeks, the garbled chatter, the need for just mommy.  I miss the wonder I had at them, a new parent, taking in all of their first moments.

For a while, I felt as if that wonder was gone, but each day I am learning to see the joy and wonder that comes with this age.

The way they learn to have friends or to not have friends, to get their feelings hurt, to see who really cares.

The way they learn to be a part of fads (silly bands, anyone?).  

The way they experiment with their sense of humor and sarcasm.

The way they pretend to be grown up but still fret over missing blankets until we find them.

The way they curl up at night with their stuffed animals.

The way they blow me kisses and hugs when I tell them goodbye.

The way they cuddle with me on the couch when we watch movies.

I sighed and packed their baby shoes away again, wistful for the past, thinking that sometimes these ages seem like a new way of life for us all.  

Then I saw Pacey's blanket that he left beside me when he was looking at his baby shoes.  

Maybe it really isn't that different after all.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Me, in a six-word nutshell

Hanging out with Making Things Up and Six Word Fridays!

Me? Well, I'm just a girl.
A mom, a wife, a friend.
Usually waiting for life to begin.
Trying to remember to jump in.
Embrace, register the moment and live.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Not Mom of the Year

Head over to the Mommyologist or Life Without Pink to see the details of this one.  What a great contest to participate in and topic to blog about!

I'm not mom of the year.
I cannot hide my humanness from my boys.

My anger, my sadness, my frustration--
I wear openly and publicly.
Raw and unbridled.
They see me.
Cry when I've had enough.
Yell when my short limit is reached.

Sometimes what they have to say invades my very core, my naturally quiet being.
I tune out stories of Pokemon and Bakugan.
I hold my tongue so I don't bitingly say,
"I really don't care, buddy!"

I'm selfish.
I crave quiet.
Often their daddy weekends are a beacon of light.
That seemingly endless stretch of 48 hours.
Belonging to me alone.
And then.
Then I feel guilty for that honest, raw desire.
The intrinsic need we all have for center and selves.

I used to be on a quest to be the perfect mother, mom of the year.
But I forgot that mothers are human too.
Not June Cleaver with a pressed dress, shiny pearls, a plastic smile.
The TV ideal that has skewed women's vision of motherhood.
The ideal that has made us afraid to own our emotions, so instead we guiltily sequester them away.
We rage. We cry. We feel.
To the very depths of ourselves.
And these little parts of us watch.
And learn from our humanness.

I don't always have fresh baked cookies waiting.
I've been known to skip baths here and there.
And sometimes I let DS time stretch a little too long.
But I love my boys.
In the most human, not mom of the year way I can.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Kids Survive

I'm playing along with Supah Mommy today with my first Post It Note Tuesday post!

Somehow I'm curious how kids survive to adulthood when parents are involved.  And I'm simply talking about the regular, loving, but sometimes very stupid parents, like myself. One day, I will look back at all of this, get past the guilt, and laugh.  Wait.  I think I already am...  Anyways, to the boy-os--  Hopefully, when you talk about all this in therapy one day, you will remember these heartfelt apologies.

And yet Pacey seems to have a great appetite and enjoys food.  Except for carrots... I'm sure there's no connection.

Even so, Gage's hearing appears to be fine.  Except when he doesn't want to listen.

Oops. I think this is probably the most embarrassing mommy moment; however, Gage's manual dexterity doesn't seem to have suffered.  His DS playing is still up to par.

I blame the nurse who distracted me.  And it only required one band-aid, which made our location synchronistically fortunate.

Totally a result of too little sleep.  And most of the time they had a hat on anyways.  So it's all good.

I'm not sure why the empathy didn't kick in automatically here.  It was pretty funny.  And he has a hard head. (All of the carrier head-banging training apparently has paid off ...)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One Pizza, One Pool, One Family

Alternatively titled-- Blending Families for Dummies (a book that we obviously need)

Last week I blogged about the challenges that a blended family faces, and one of the issues that we have come up against in the past is spending time together-- just the five of us-- doing something that we can all enjoy.  It may sound simple, but really it isn't.  Trust me.  Here's why:
  1.  The age gap between the boy-os and the princess is just enough so that they have absolutely nothing in common.  Unavoidable.
  2. I share joint custody of the boy-os with their father, so they are only here roughly half the time.  Unavoidable.
  3. The princess is a teenager.  That equals friends, a boyfriend, a job, a team sport, and lots of time in her bedroom.  Understandable.
  4. The princess periodically spends time at her mom's house.  Unavoidable.
  5. Asian husband and I can sometimes be selfish with our time together-- being newly married and all.  Understandable, but can probably be adjusted.
That is not a recipe for easy family bonding.  It is actually the exact recipe for an authentic surface family feel.  Co-existing in the same house, but not really bonding.  We didn't have the luxury of years of baby and toddlerhood to spend together and work through the kinks of children.  We have been thrown into the mix late in the game, after each of us had spent several years of raising our kids on our own.  We are a bit rusty with the kind of work it takes to be a family.  And by that I mean a for-real family, not just a group of people living under one roof.  I used to scoff at the number of failed second marriages that involved two sets of children, but now that I've experienced the reality, I understand it and have a great respect for it.  Because it is a crap ton of work.  A. Crap. Ton. Of. Work. And if you don't pay attention, it can easily crumble right before your eyes.

Luckily, Asian husband and I instituted a plan of action to assist us in this family bonding endeavor.  I call it the "do whatever we can whenever we can" plan or DWWCWWC.  It can be pronounced dee-wick-wick, which makes it fun to say and by extension fun to execute.  This very intricate and detailed plan requires a lot of forethought and careful organizing to ensure everything goes well.  You should take notes.
  1. Target a time when all of the family has intentions of being home and available.
  2. Make plans.
You can see why it has taken us about two years to come up with it. I will pause while you recover from great awe.

This weekend we had ice cream at the local fro-yo place (which I guess would be frozen yogurt, not ice cream, but whatever), had lunch at the local pizzeria, and crashed a relative's community pool with an extra pool pass.  (I was convinced that the Russian lifeguards were on to the fact that we were impostors, but for the sake of the dee-wick-wick plan, I was willing to take the chance.)

They all smiled. At the same time. And no one had a finger up his nose (Gage) or in his mouth (Pacey). 

Friday, July 09, 2010


Another fun writing assignment from a great blog, Making Things Up!  This week's assignment is about how you are feeling, and you have to answer in six words or a series of six words. So much fun-- at least for an English major!

Make me laugh, make me smile.
He shouts, he asks, he laughs:
I don't want to grow up!
Can grown-up girls lay eighteen babies?
My elbow can touch my nose!
I want birthdays but stay "wittle."

I crave more of these moments.
Chances to laugh, chances to smile.
Asian husband says I baby them.
But what's a mom to do...
When time is fleeting and flying?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Procrastination

Writer's Workshop time! From a great blog, Mama's Losin' It!: Photographs can turn a house into a home. Share a photograph that is not on your wall, but should be…if you weren’t so lazy about actually putting it there.

Procrastination. I had a meltdown last week in Denver with the husband about being lazy and procrastinating too much. "Where's my drive?!" I Cried  "Where's the initiative?!" I wailed and then hid under the covers. (Okay, maybe I wasn't quite so dramatic, but I'm sure most of us out there have had moments like this. Right? Or maybe I really am the crazy woman that Asian husband proclaims... But I digress.)

So this picture of little Gagey Goo Goo (I swear I will stop calling him this when he goes to first grade. When he goes to middle school. High school. College. At his wedding.  Maybe...) is Evidence A of my mastery of the art of procrastination. This perfect pumpkin patch picture (alliteration of the day) is about three years old. I remember thinking I was almost a professional with my little digital shot here. Let me pause for a moment to allow you to admire the composition, the lighting, the blending of subject and environment... (pretend for a moment I do know the first thing about photography.)

Since then I have often thought that I should print this out (on my printer that is about 10 feet away), frame it, and hang it up. What a great way to show off that cute little face immortalized, I mused. And yet the picture is still safe and sound on my computer's hard hard drive.

Which brings me back to my original rambling. Procrastination. I have often wondered what keeps me from taking the next steps with different goals I have, small and large. Is printing out a picture and putting it in a frame really so taxing? Is blogging more than once a month unconquerable?  Neither of these are at all, and what I have realized is it comes down to is fear. Fear of putting myself out there. To be judged. Observed. I have spent most of my life trying to be fairly invisible, and these kinds of things go against my grain.  I have a text reminder sent to myself each day that simply states 'Confidence and Independence,' but despite the reminder, I am only doing minor things to boost that part of myself that would much rather hide, so in addition to actually printing out this picture and finding the absolute perfect spot for it (baby steps), I am working on confidence in my writing, my thinking, and my blogging (big steps), which I hope contributes to confidence in my being (even bigger steps).

Mama's Losin' It

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Natural Consequences

Just when I think that the past is really behind me, that I've moved on, grown, made strides, and learned something (any other cliches?), I realize that rather than growth and healing being a straight-lined journey, it is more cyclical, revisited periodically.  Coming on the heels of Father's Day, this current bout of understanding and reflection concerning the past has been fairly poignant.  I'm realizing that the process of blending a family is more complicated, more difficult, and frankly more work than I had been prepared for.  Given a variety of personalities, cultures, and family backgrounds, I liken it to throwing three different jigsaw puzzles on the ground and trying to come up with one coherent picture.  Not impossible, but also not easy.  We continue to work at it, diligently, but now with the knowledge that this work is true work, and it needs to be tackled each day with an awareness of the importance it holds.

It just so happened that for the past week, I have been converting old home videos to a digital format, which means that I have spent quite a bit of time immersed in my and the boys' pasts.  From the birth of Pacey to the time Gage was 3, their dad and I separated three times and finally divorced.  I went through several hairstyles (some good, some very, very bad).  I lived in four different homes.  Much of this was invisible to the camera's eye, but as I watched, I relived the backchannel story.  The anger and grief, the hopelessness and despair.  But I also saw our love for the boys despite the situation.  We laughed at them and with them, and it rejuvenated my soul to experience our relationships as a third party.  It made me glad that one day, when the boys are older and see the videos, they will see many happy moments that included all four of us.

In the midst of my personal reflection (and despite the fact that the boys didn't know I was watching the videos), Pacey intuitively told me that he wished that all four of us could still live together, so that way he could see me and his dad all the time.  In that moment, I realized that I owe so much to my little boy-os.  When making the choice to leave (time after time), I struggled with the impact it would have on them, and I finally found peace with the notion that if I had stayed, I would have continued to be unhappy and that would have impacted them in a much more detrimental way.  What struck me was that though I have moved on, and we have a new life with a new family, we will always be impacted by that choice.  The boys have ultimately lost something and will experience that loss daily-- when they wish to be with both parents all the time, despite the fact that they were so little that they don't remember us all living together.  I looked down at his head in my lap and saw a strength in him that I hadn't noticed before, and I realized the irony of divorce.  That in some way, in order for me (and by extension them) to be happy, I had to make a choice that would always make them sad.  And me too, a little, if I am being completely honest with myself.

I have no regrets for the choices I made that brought us here.  I know that I am much happier, much more fulfilled and much more myself in this marriage to an incredible man.  And that all translates to me being a better mom, which brings me back to the blending family issue.  Through all of this reflection and revisiting of the past, I have realized that I need to create a new definition of family for myself.  I have naively believed that simply by the merit of us all living under the same roof, we would immediately feel and function like a single, biological family.  I have wished that all of the kids would just be ours, and that it would feel like what I had only glimpses of in my previous life.  But through that wishing, I have ignored the reality of what blending a family and step-parenting means-- we are not a biological unit, and it is completely natural to feel that loss, but it is also equally important to know that the boys and I and the husband and the princess are a part of so much more as long as we are open to finding it.  We are a blended family, and though the journey that comes with creating and maintaining this kind of family is more intentional, less haphazard, and littered with remnants of our pasts that require careful navigation, I know we will be up for the trip.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Real Tears

Seeing pain in your child's eyes and being helpless to fix it is one of the hardest moments parents face.  As we grow with our children, we quickly learn to look past the pouting, temper tantrums, and upsets over missing toys.  Hopefully we teach them to understand and deal with disappointment that comes with growing up-- from losing games to losing friends, it is our job to help our children understand how to grow from those experiences.  As with every other task that comes with parenting, we continually become more adept at these moments until moving our children through them becomes close to second nature.

What we aren't prepared for are those first, real tears.  The tears that speak to the realization of the sadness that can come with being human.  The gradual loss of innocence that begins from birth is sped up in these experiences and the child's heartache that accompanies this painful part of growing up is even more heart-wrenching for the mom watching it unfold.

While I was cooking dinner tonight, Gage was quietly playing alone upstairs.  I was hearing the Leap Frog learning pad and the Lincoln Logs, but eventually he was quietly reading a book we checked out from the library earlier this week.  This book was an afterthought, a book that Gage crammed into the stack as I was diligently looking for level 1 readers for him.  The cover must have caught his eye-- brilliantly illustrated in deep blues and greens with a lone hippo floating in the ocean.  As I added it to our books, I didn't know how much it would impact us.

It is mostly a picture book, with the only word being "mama," but in those pictures, a poignant story is told.  One of love and loss, one that changes perspectives and brings understanding as a hippo family is separated in the Indonesian tsumani of 2004 and the baby hippo finds a new "mama" in a 130 year old turtle.
I was finishing dinner when Pacey told me that Gage was crying upstairs, and I frustratedly thought, "what now?!"  Lately, they have been in a phase of arguing and hurt feelings, so I was sure that I didn't want to hear whatever it was that had brought about the tears this time.  When Gage wouldn't reply to my calls, I went up the stairs to see what had happened.  I found him curled on the couch in the loft, the book by his side, tears silently leaving tracks on his cheeks.

As I held him and let him cry for over an hour, I realized what he had come to understand.  The loss that is inherent in life, the fear of being without a loved one, the mortality we constantly evade.  My tears chased his as he looked pleadingly at me, his eyes questioning mine, imploring me to take back what he had discovered.  I knew I could do nothing but let him cry in my arms, for that moment a safe haven.  As I held him, I saw the baby he once was.  The little line of peach fuzz on his nose, adjacent to the red mark on his nostril.  His legs curled into his stomach.  His lips soft and round.  His eyelashes long and thick.  The only difference was a fear in his eyes that I haven't seen before, a fear that I have known well.  I was 6 when I started worrying about my grandma dying and would cry in her bed at night as she stroked my forehead like I was stroking his.  With each motion, his eyes started to drift off.  I felt his body relax and twitch as he gave into the fatigue that an hour of crying can bring.  I held him there, still running my fingers through his silky hair until bedtime when I carried him upstairs to tuck him in.  He choked out a few sleepy sobs and as I covered him up with his favorite blanket, he seemed to take comfort in an old, familiar friend.

I came back downstairs and cried at the harsh reality of love and loss.  If we let it, life will pass us by in a flurry of activity and forgotten tasks. If we are lucky, we find occasional reminders for gratitude and awareness. When we are open to it, the chance to live in the moment with our loved ones presents itself. 

Image embedded from:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Break-Ups and Bottoms

Boys are an enigma.  And let's face it: a bit weird.  The whole parenting things is hard enough, but when you add to the mix that I had three sisters and was never around boys all that much growing up, things get a little bizarre.

An always present issue?  Volume.  Why is their normal voice decibel what most of us would use at a concert?  Directly in front of the stage by that absurdly large speaker.  The husband and I thought we were being so non-traditional when we decided we wanted an open floor plan-- it was a deal breaker, we'd agreed.  I think that now I would pay money to have Holmes on Homes come and throw up some walls just for some sound barrier.

But beyond the volume (I swear I told Gage 25 times today that we were inside, so we need to use our inside voices. Choose to read those italics as a stressed word or a screamed word-- up to you.), I'm continually finding that raising two boys is an adventure, especially when one is an 8 year old in second grade.

What exactly happens between sending the sweet, round-faced little boy off to kindergarten and being shrugged off by a somewhat sarcastic, thin second grader? Yes, I've gotten the shoulder-nudge hug, and most recently, the fake ha-ha-ha laugh when I made an outstandingly funny joke about the wind blowing us away because it was so strong. Of course, it was a funny joke, and I knew he was flexing his new found sarcasm, which I'm sure he didn't pick up from me-- must have been some kid at school.

Pacey has never been what you might call even-tempered. Start with the 6-hour screaming fits as an infant, the mega temper tantrums as a toddler, and you really can't expect much different from a second grader, I'm coming to find.

One day, he was upset because he and his friend broke up. I tried to nonchalantly engage the conversation and get down to what we all really wanted to know-- who is this little harlot and when exactly did this relationship get started, let alone progress enough to end?! I was fighting this internal battle when he finally told us that Connor told him he didn't want to be friends anymore. Connor. A boy. His lunch table friend. I was enamored with his innocence and attempt to use "grown-up" words to talk about something as commonplace as severed second-grade friendships. I gave him a hug and offered some mom-perfect words of consolation as he ran off, leaving me wistfully wanting to bottle that innocence and sprinkle it around when he hits the dreaded teens.

I was thoroughly enjoying that mom-fantasy when I was rudely ripped from my dreamland as Gage ran by shrieking (loudly, of course), followed by Pacey yelling (again, loudly), "Smell my bottom, smell my bottom!"

Which came from the boy who just moments earlier was crying about a break-up. I think I will need that bottled innocence just a bit sooner.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

S is for Strength

Christmas was a fun time at the Rock House-- filled with family and fun and all of the traditional Christmastime activities.  I have always made cookies with the boys at Christmas-- the first time with a 2 year old and a newborn.  Sprinkles and frosting decorated more of the table and floor than the cookies (notice Pacey is squeezing the frosting directly onto the table), and I know they don't remember it, but to me, it was an important time because I had never made my grandma's press cookies on my own before.  It had always been a Christmastime ritual to go over to Grandma's house and decorate the trees, wreaths, poinsettias, and dog cookies with candied cherries and sprinkles.  Baking with Grandma was one of my favorite pastimes, and since that first foray into independent cookie baking, which went beyond press cookies even, I have baked her cookies with the boys each year.

It always feels like more than just baking-- when I dig through my recipe box, find a recipe, some in my grandma's handwriting, pull down her KitchenAid mixer and set to work.  Reconnecting with the past, imagining simpler times, and creating something with the boys casts a warm glow around the process.  This year was especially meaningful because the boys and I made her S cookies, which were always my favorite.  The two-day recipe always had intimidated me, so I never tried it, but as the boys and I shaped cookies into S's, I felt perfectly at ease and content.  I held Gage's hand as he turned the handle of the grinder to chop the almonds the same way my grandma did with mine.  As we dipped the cookies into almonds and sugar, tears filled my eyes because I could feel a connection with my past that will allow my grandma to live forever in my kitchen, and it is moments like this that I can ask for nothing more but to continue baking cookies and building memories with my boys.

My grandma always said that I was determined and could do anything I set my mind to.  I'm not sure that I believed her when I was young, but the boys have changed my mindset as I strive to give them traditions, memories, and a warm family environment.  They will always remember these moments with me in kitchen, and I know that with every S, wreath, and tree she is smiling down on me and the Rock House family, pleased with the cookies, the continuing of Christmas traditions, and our happy life together.