Playgroup

It’s the great American dream to raise your children in a cozy small town, especially if you grew up dreaming of Mayberry.

I grew up IN Mayberry… or the closest thing I’ve ever seen to it.

I STILL live in Mayberry, which is not my dream come true.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredible bunch of friends, all of whom are amazing women and men, and my children have grown up in the safe cocoon of an impossibly small and close knit town. There are great benefits that I wholeheartedly appreciate… but it’s not all rainbows and sunsets.

My sweet baby girl loves a local playgroup that is held once a week at a local church. There are a few moms I really like, but ultimately… we’re in it for the bouncy houses and free-range room full of small people. Its not religious, though you are welcomed to join their church services. We went regularly when she was a baby, and have started going again recently.

It is interesting as hell, to say the least.

I’m a lucky mom, because my baby is sweet and shares happily. She doesn’t have anyone in her life that doesn’t share with her, so it’s more a wonderful consequence of the 13 years between her big sister and her, than it is a reflection of my fantastic parenting. The downside, is that she gets a little mowed over at playgroup. It’s good for her, and she’s learning to defend her stuff these days.

She was happily marching a little hot pink double stroller around the busy room, when another little girl ran up and ripped the stroller out of her hands. She stared at me in horror, turned and stomped her tiny right foot.

B- NO! Be nice! Shaaaaaare.

The thief’s mother had appeared to return the stolen stroller. My little dumpling smiled and thanked her. Offering one of the babies to the angry little girl, who promptly threw it back at her.

Playgroup offers more than just bouncy houses. Playgroup is her first lesson that some people are just assholes.

Which is when I spot one I remember from high school. Great.

Remember that god-awful popular girl in high school who liked to call attention to people in their worst moments? Yeah her. The bad news is that she’s spawned. The worse news is that one of her little carbon copies is the same age as mine.

She has ankle boots like my teenage daughter, full hair & makeup. She’s smirking down her nose at the clusters of pajama clad moms, throughout the room. She’s eyeing up my Yoga pants, ponytail and complete lack of so much as moisturizer with more contempt than I’ve seen since 1993.

Her Irish twins are in the bouncy house with my Sugarplum and her eldest is trying to face stomp her baby while she lovingly “guides” her children with kind words.

Y-“Milwaukee, use your body with kindness towards Wenatchee. Wenatchee is small and needs you to help her learn. Milwaukee don’t use your feet for hurting. Milwaukee use your feet to jump and see how happy it makes you feel”

Milwaukee is attempting to break Wenatchee’s leg.

I am subconsciously peeing my pants in hysterical fits of laughter every time she says their names. I love uppity women who give their kids elitist white trash names. LOVE them.

I looked my daughter in the face and set the whole house straight.

J-“Don’t jump by that baby. She’s tiny and you need to be kind. Got it?”

B- “Got it!”

Miss Popularity frowned at me and I saw the recognition hit her. Uh oh.

Y- Jenni, isn’t it? We went to school together.

I smiled at her and she sort of half-sneered in my general direction. I’m easily 50 pounds heavier than her, in yoga pants and what’s left of my makeup from work last night… but she looks twenty years older than me, has bratty kids and too much patience.

Playgroup never disappoints.

I escape the high school reunion, only to run into another. A stay-at-home mom of one and only. Ugh. She wants to talk about poop and pull ups and all I can think of is signing up to be a foster parent so that we could have a built in playmate and avoid playgroup altogether.

A little singing and we’re out the door and home to the safety of the four walls that keep the familiar strangers, away.

Until next week, Mayberry.

tp


Along the way…

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I’ve been silent… and just plain exhausted, for two years. Somewhere along the way, I got lost in my own head and stopped writing. Having my words held against me during my custody battle, stole the joy out of blogging.

I’m really sad that I’m missing those two precious years from my journal. Regardless of the very public nature of my blog, it keeps the significant moments in my life that run together in the daily chaos, somewhere I can find them. The struggle of single parenthood means you spend twice as much time doing, and half as much time reminiscing. Blogging has allowed me to do both.

I burn the candle from both ends at an Olympic level. Last week, it caught up with me. I’d been up for 3 solid days and nights with a sick toddler, and our entire world was peppered with vomit, diarrhea and snot. Hers and my own. We were a hot mess, literally. Flu, my ass… I’m pretty sure we had the plague.

And I needed to wash diapers. FML.

Sneezing, coughing and struggling to throw the wet bag full of ungodly-smelling diapers into the washer… whilst sterilizing jars in preparation to can chili and black beans, because I STILL have tomatoes from the garden this summer.

Oy vey… I had to sit down and laugh/cry… because this was certainly not the Happy Ever After I envisioned when I fell in love with her father.

I wasn’t all wrong about her Dad. He helps in the ways he can from a few states away. He lets her live the life of a normal kid, and not one forever split between two parents that wanted her more than they ended up wanting each other. It’s not her fault that we aren’t together, and I’m thankful her life isn’t fractured on a weekly basis. He got engaged this fall, to a woman that suits him perfectly. They’re a happy couple and he’s a father to her three kids. All is well that ends well… aka: I work hard to bite my tongue. I lose my temper and text war breaks out every now and then, because while his not being here allows her to live a normal life and I’m grateful, she also deserves to have her dad around.

After the most recent argument, I spent a little time cleaning up my blog and deleting random mindless crap from the past few years. Reading back through the blogs I wrote is always good for a healthy reminder of why things are the way they are. I don’t always like to read back, but it always reminds me that once upon a time, I thought he was the one. I’m glad I wrote about it because it reminds me not to be a bitch to him, now most of the time.

I do believe my ten days two years of puke, mucous and shit entitle me to a little righteous indignation, but my 39 years should also grace me with enough maturity to be kind. I’m grateful that I gushed embarrassingly then, so that I can remember now to not say what does not NEED to be said.

I’ve learned a lot by being quiet. Leaving something unsaid is far more powerful than having the last word, and given how short life is, I sincerely hope that the words I leave with people on a daily basis, are kind.

Except Thomas. That guy can still go fuck himself.


Write on…

It’s been a long year. In fact…it’s been a long decade.

I finished planting my garden earlier than ever last year. My corn was a huge success for the first time! The pumpkin patch of my dreams, was a reality. Through morning and afternoon baby naps, I managed to get it planted and weeded. It was actually beautiful… but sobering. I CAN grow an acre of vegetables and bottle enough to feed an army, but I don’t NEED to. I’ve given up on the fantasy of my children loving to garden, and I remember clearly how much I hated it as a child. I’m determined to cut back this year so that it’s a blessing, not a burden.

I figured it may be relaxing to write again, if only for myself. I get the nicest emails from people, asking me why I don’t write anymore. I’m not sure how to answer that?

I’m a different person than I used to be. Growing up, and more importantly fucking up; changes you. I guess you could say that I finally learned from my mistakes. As a result of my relationship failing, finding myself as a single mother with a teenager AND a newborn and a side of heartache… I grew up. I’m slowly finding my footing again, while carefully choosing each step with the knowledge that the wrong one can have lasting consequences.

I’m a little sad to see my tiny one grow so fast and I miss her infancy when I see newborns. She lights the whole world up with her constant smile, hilarious laughter and baby chatter. I don’t know how we ever lived without the joy and love she brings to everyone and everywhere. She’s nothing short of magical. I’m that annoying friend on Facebook who shamelessly inundates everyone with baby pictures and videos.

The teenager is absolutely frustratingly normal. Most days I’m the stupidest person in the world and live purely to thwart her plans for part of the day, and her best friend the other half. I am proud of the young lady I know that she is, and hopeful she’ll escape our small town after graduation to pursue her dreams. I’m grateful for the friendship I have with her dad and step-mother.

All in all, and in every aspect; life has calmed down. The custody war has long ended and my relationship with my baby girl’s dad is peaceful and friendly. He’s dating an old friend and has moved back to Colorado to live with her. He calls regularly and I hang pictures of him around the house so she sees his face. She’s just begun to say Daddy. I’m grateful she will grow up surrounded with love, not hostility. I never dreamed in a million years that I’d be raising a baby alone, but I treasure every single second and appreciate that he does everything he can do from thousands of miles away.

We’ve learned to coexist, sleep, love and make the most of every moment in the last year. We’ve weathered financial devastation, laughed through a lot of creative pasta and rice dishes and have found a new-found peace in being carnivorous vegetarians. We all love a good steak but we can afford veggies, and I grew enough to feed us all winter.

Life has changed and it isn’t what I thought it would be, but it is absolutely joyous and full of everything simple and sweet that I treasure most.

The last vestiges of babyhood have been hard to pack away. A long-outgrown bassinet stands in the corner of my room, because I love it too much to part with it. Baby shoes, pacifiers and miniature socks clutter the top of my dresser. It’s a strange mix, no matter where you look. My black work apron, a few pens, a wine key and wilted gardenia still hooked by the bobby pin that held it in my hair all night. A school progress report for Little Red, lipgloss and an antique jar of buttons. My latest knitting pattern, some industrial foot cream for my mangled server feet and a stack of bills. As always, my crafts create a happy clutter that reminds me to take time to create. My vices are all healthy, and I am definitely guilty of being a little boring these days. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m only growing three varieties of tomatoes this year. I did away with my whimsical round garden and have practical, straight rows. I wouldn’t say I’m disenchanted… more so that I’ve gotten an epic reality check. I don’t want to be bitter and jaded, but my fairy-tales turn into nightmares when I least expect them to and my heart is not a good judge of character. Consequently… I have taken myself out of the pool, entirely, and permanently.

Never. Another. Boyfriend. I have two cats… and I’d be delighted to adopt a dozen more.

IMG_7334Being boring is awesome. ♥


The Holy Grail of Knitting Patterns

I learned to knit when I put my children through Waldorf school. My poor son hated knitting and would offer to trade me chores for my knitting his flute bag. I loved it. He did not understand.

I decided the first year that I’d learned to knit fairly well that I’d make them stuffed animals. I bought an adorable pattern on Ravelry, ordered beautiful yarn for each of them and sat down to whip them right out.

elijah

Holy hannah… they were made with tiny needles and there were stitches I’d never seen and didn’t make sense to read. I got the first half done and ended up with a blue trunk/head object that looked like blue fuzzy scrotum. Ugh.

I’d already fantasized about  a darling matching set of hand-knit Elijah elephants dangling out of stockings on Christmas eve/morning. I knew I didn’t have time to spend the time getting them done by the holiday, so I started to search for someone that could make them. I Googled “knit animals, knit toys and knit for children… and found the most amazing and inspirational woman.

Julie Williams, of Little Cotton Rabbits.

Her blog popped up and I fell in love with her little English garden. I grew to admire her as I read about her knitting peacefully with her Autistic son. I loved how she spoke about her daughter. Most of all?

lcrgang

I wanted one of her little animals so badly I was considering bribing someone who won to let me buy theirs. Julie was a mother and woman first and the demand for her beautiful creations far exceeded how many she could produce. People stole her ideas left and right and still, and whilst defending herself; she did the best she could to knit as many as possible. People began to complain the sales were rigged and whined that they were being intentionally denied an opportunity to have a coveted Little Cotton Rabbit. She would list them randomly and it was the basically the luck of who got there… but there did seem to be people who sat and did nothing but hit the refresh button in anticipation of her listing one for sale. I remember reading a comment from a woman that had three of them. I was instantly bitter and could not believe she would continue snatching the treasures up while some of us didn’t even have ONE yet! I realized I was obsessed.

bunny

I was never lucky enough to win the opportunity to buy one.

She finally had to resort to using a random number generator to choose who got to the chance to buy one. I gave up.  She’s been the first link in my computer for years.

My ex got married a few years ago and my daughter was nervous about her first trip on an airplane without me. She was clingy weepy about it and I wanted to send something small and made with love to comfort her in my absence. I sat down with my needles and copied the bunny I coveted, to the best of my ability. It was absolute hell, but Bailey the Bunny was exactly what my baby girl needed to feel safe. I sprayed her tummy with my perfume and wrapped her in her suitcase. She loved her and I swore I’d never make another one…. until my favorite Aunt had a baby girl. I used the beloved Alpaca yarn I’d had stashed for a special project, and Vera the bunny was sent off with great love.

bailey

I’ve tweaked my pattern over the years, but I always felt a little… wrong about the whole thing.

I’d absolutely copied her pattern as best I could- and it wasn’t to cheat her or avoid paying for something. I couldn’t buy one…. and she didn’t sell the pattern.

Bailey and Vera were gifts of great love and SO hard to knit… but more than that- I’d loved those cotton bunnies for so many years and wanted my little girls to have one.

Along those lines, I’m making all of my Christmas gifts this year and I’m determined to knit something for everyone. I would love to knit everyone something special, though I can’t imagine being able to pull it off this year.  I tucked a sleepy baby in my bathrobe and sat down with my tea this morning to look at patterns on Ravelry. I clicked on the Little Cotton Rabbits page and nearly fell off of my chair.

You can buy the bunny pattern.

bunnyforsale

You can buy the dress pattern.

dresses4sale

There is a Santa Claus.

I bought them immediately and opened directly to the foot, which is knitting purgatory. Baby Quinn’s bunny still only has one leg. I read the instructions and nearly cried. It’s so perfectly neat and beautifully simple. Just like everything I’ve seen about Julie.

I’m both honored and excited to share this link. Go buy this pattern and fill the lives of the little ones you love…

With REAL Little Cotton Rabbits.

I’m still so excited I feel like Santa came early… and seeing the little foxes lets me know that someday… if I’m patient and wait my turn…

She’s going to sell the elephant pattern too.

I’m beside myself with geeky knitter joy that I can actually make my babylove a REAL rabbit, just like the beautiful creations Julie’s made that have evaded capture.

Now I can give my darling knitter friend S the link to the REAL pattern… because I still can’t find one of the 5 post-it notes I wrote my borrowed pattern on.

I’m so incredibly happy to be able to support such a wonderful woman. I have 2 bunnies already started and I’m happiest most of all that two of them will be dangling out of stockings this year!!!

omgcute


Foundation

I have an old cedar deck on the front of my house, and in one spot, the boards are being pulled a different direction by the house. I know a problem when I see one. Thankfully after 37 years I also know when it’s a problem I am not equipped to repair by myself. It’s a foundation issue.

Such was my life. Being pulled in a million directions results in you neglecting the priorities you really want to prioritize. I was scattered. Flailing. Desperate.

Not at all how anyone would like to be described.

And just like these boards of mine, I started from the top and have worked my way down. Ish.

I had faith in love again and was disappointed when it went sour. It happens. I’m definitely jaded at this point and have happily burned my V card. I intend to live out my life with a houseful of happiness. (and a dozen cats).

I’ve learned to recognize when I’m not good at something and let it go. I realized how much I needed my mom in my life, and we’ve never been closer after realizing that it’s time spent, that counts. She’s given me a million things over the years, but the week she spent with me after my baby was born wove the frayed ends of our bond back together again.

Ripping down the foundation means you have to put it back together brick by brick… and you only use the bricks you know to be the best. You pick your favorites and leave the broken empty bullshit in the pile.

When you only foster and encourage the best parts of you, every day counts. I’m living proof of the power of having faith in yourself and the ability to change your life.

I had a beautiful baby in July and she lights my life in more ways than I can describe …while she grins and poops at the same time. I still pinch myself every time she wakes me from the four hour power naps I survive on. She wakes up with a big smile and we get our routine on with a little Biggie Smalls. She’s my little Muffin.

muffin

My day begins with a diaper to change, diapers to wash. Jammies to hang up. Smiley baby to nurse. Lunch to pack.

Her big sister is a full fledged teenager, fighting me when she spots my weaknesses. I love her to bits and remember what it was like with her big brother and realize it’s just how they are. I’ve had a baby in each stage of my life. My teens (19), my twenties (24) and now my thirties (37). It’s all so different and similar at the same time. I have so much more patience now- and I feel bad for my older kids because they had the drill sergeant asshole mom.  The midlife crisis mom. Muffin gets the best of me. The weathered, hardened and tempered steel strong lady I’ve grown into. The mom who know knows dessert for dinner is healthy sometimes. The everything-can-wait-let’s read-another-book mom. The mom who makes the damn kids help in the garden. I’ve learned through success and failure to focus on what’s important and leave the rest behind.

I miss my coworkers. I miss having something to talk about beyond baby smiles, infant milestones and canning…. but I’m loving my life these days. I’m living in the moment and treasuring each one.

yarden2013

I grew that damn enormous acre of vegetables and it’s downright terrifying how many heirloom tomatoes I have. A thousand pounds, perhaps? More? It’s beyond epic. It’s a biomass.

toms

Gardening while growing a human is not for the faint of heart. I pulled off the impossible. It was spectacular- and froze last week (Thank GAWD) It wasn’t bad while I was pregnant, and actually helped my back feel better. It was soothing while I was nesting and needed more to clean. It’s amazing how many weeds I pulled with a 45 inch waistline. Muffin was born right when it started to produce and things got a little crazy. You can’t take a newborn into the blazing sun and the weeds grew right along with the plants, which I never found time to fertilize.

somanyheirlooms

Thank God, all the angels & saints too… because I would have had to call the gleaners to help take some of it away.

pantry

I’m canning with a newborn, which is intense- to say the least. I dice tomatoes… then sing patty-cake. Nap time for baby means running a few dozen jars of sauce, salsa, tomatoes, etc through the canner. My pantry is beautiful, and I treasure these months I’ve been devoting myself at home, full time. I love having all the laundry done. I smile when I see a fresh tablecloth on the kitchen table. I like cleaning light fixtures. I’m contemplating painting. It feels good to make home feel cozy and beautiful again. Getting rid of the excess and only keeping your favorite things results in a nice tidy home full of everything you love most. All bets are off where my crafty stuff is concerned.

One cannot own too much yarn, fabric or buttons. These are facts.

I’m baking again which is sinfully good and terrible for my ass at the same time. I roasted a baby sugar pumpkin from the garden yesterday and I’m making a few pumpkin rolls today. The house smells like a mom lives here again. I can’t even get a thigh in my old jeans. Damn. Pregnancy at 37 doesn’t go away as fast as it does when you’re younger… but I’ll get there. Right after this pumpkin roll… 🙂 I really don’t care, to be completely honest. I’m focusing on being a great mother, being a better friend and appreciating the people and season. There’s plenty of time for working out when this baby isn’t so tiny and new. If this sweet chubby babylove of mine is any indication, my breast milk is more like heavy cream.

hat

I spent nap time sewing for my baby sister yesterday. Her baby is due any day and they did not find out their baby’s gender. It’s fabulously exciting, but a pain in the ass when you’re buying or making gifts. I hope like crazy it’s a girl because her and Muffin would be so close in age. Either way, it was so nice to fire up the Pfaff again. I padded her presents with baby potatoes and actually managed to get it in the mail in time to make it there for her shower… I hope.

I started running again this week after trading a years worth of garden produce for an awesome jogging stroller. Muffin loves it and I’m happy to resume a healthy habit that makes me feel so much better.

Rebuilding a foundation takes time and patience but having strong footing makes all the difference. Ridding yourself of the junk that holds you back and drowns you out, frees up a lot of time to focus on the things you love.

So I’ve cleaned the house, put away enough food for a damn army and knit 4 hats, a sweater and one bootie.

homegrown

I grew a baby, grew a garden and kept stacking away on my new foundation. I’ve only used the bricks that make me a maternal bad ass with a black belt in organic gardening. I threw out the bullshit, burned the trash and life has never been more peaceful.

One of these days I’m going to get around to fixing that deck.