Being a Kid Again and the Word No

Eli and Grandpa Allen water the plants.

Indulge me in a quick thought experiment: Imagine yourself as a kid again.

What came to mind? Perhaps an image of you at elementary age, running free, exploring your neighborhood subject only to the limits of your imagination, unburdened by adult concerns of meal planning, mortgage payments, and marriage woes.

The other day a friend shared with me his irritation at the feeling he’s being asked to carry more responsibility that he really wants. He’s single, childless, and works hard at his job, which pays him fairly. He’s in a position to easily experience the unbounded freedoms of childhood. And yet, he found himself recently saying “yes” to a few too many requests on his time and abilities. “But I want to help,” he counters, mostly to himself. He values service, community, and connection so it’s important to him to provide what others need if he’s in a position to offer.

But something wasn’t sitting well with him and it was obvious. His anger fomented at the top of the conversation like a froth. “I don’t want all this responsibility,” he whined, “I just want to be a kid again.”

I sat there listening but couldn’t help think of my own kid, newly two years old. What do you know of two year olds? They love to say “No.” Or in some cases, “No! No, no, no, NO!”

This was something about being a kid that my friend–and I think most of us–often forget. Kids are excellent at setting boundaries around what they like and don’t like, what they will do and won’t do. They don’t think about how saying no might make them temporarily unlikeable. They don’t worry about it. And so, they enjoy sharing when it feels good and ignore requests to put to down they toy when they’re absorbed with it. It’s simple math.

But what do we do? We put others first before our own needs and desires to the point that we feel resentful of the very people we care so much about. How can we be more like a kid again? We could practice saying no.

The next time you receive an invitation to an event that sounds nice but you’d rather not get in the car to stay out late? Say no. Stay in and read on the couch instead, it’s what you really want to do.

The next time your eyes get bigger than your stomach but you know you don’t really want that fourth cookie? Say no. Listen to your gut.

You can change your mind, you can surprise people, you can make different choice, you can say no. Kids do.

 

 

 

Are we ready for baby #2?

Holding hands on a walk.

When Simeon and I decided to have our first child we went through what felt like a fairly comprehensive check-list of considerations.

Do we both want a child? Yes. An obvious question to be sure, but what if the answers were to have differed? What then? Thankfully they did not.

Are we healthy? Are we prepared physically? Yes.

Are we financially stable? Yes. Though student loans and credit card debt still loomed large in the budget and we would have loved to have been making more than the woefully underpaid non-profit salaries we were bringing in, we were both earning good enough paychecks. It felt like enough to support a family.

Are we really ready to bring home a baby? Well, to be honest, this was tricky. This question could read as a matter of whether we were emotionally ready for the changes a child would cause. But in reality, it was the technicality of the question we had to consider. We didn’t actually have a home to bring a baby to. We had quickly moved to Vermont when a job offer was made and after a couple months we still had yet to find an affordable and semi-permanent living situation. In the meantime, we had been renting a room in a home owned by friends. At least we would have nine more months to sort things out, right? But then I wavered. Should we wait until things were even more clearly settled? This was a decision we would never be able to undo. We had to be sure.

Eventually, I took solace in the advice I had heard repeated by many friends who had had children: There’s never a perfect time. You can never prepare enough to feel really ready and even if you do prepare better than anyone ever has in the history of parenting (assuming that’s a possibility) it will be futile. No one can predict what kind of temperament to expect from their newborn.

Verdict: There’s never a perfect time. And one other thing I heard said over and over, I’ve never regretted it anyhow.

So, we went for it. And when Eli was born I was not nervous or overwhelmed. I even surprised myself by how calm I was in the day-to-day experience of being a new mom. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around what a miracle it is to grow a human inside my body and expel it alive and well.  And yes, I was bowled over by the enormity of the responsibility of caring for this tiny helpless human. But I took comfort knowing that every person on Earth had had a mother and whether she was a great mom, or a so-so mom, they had made it and there they were, shopping for groceries or waiting patiently at a red light. I would be ok. HMy baby would be ok.

Eli is now two years old and again I am find myself incredulous. Are we ready for another baby? And again we find ourselves asking those same questions… What about buying a more permanent home? Should we wait to have more in savings? What about our relationship with our son? Are we ready to introduce a new member to the family and disturb our little trio?

It’s not a logical decision I hear over and over again. Stop using logic to make this choice and ask with your heart instead.

In a quiet moment I find space to sit with myself. My heart beats. In the rhythm of its thumping I feel a tug. An opening. I want another child. A beat. Did I just say that? A thump. A quickening. Yes, we’re ready. We can do this. Another baby Bittman. Coming soon. Hopefully.

Th-thump. Th-thump. Th-thump…

 

A Birthday Party for Eli #2

 

IMG_8079This past weekend we celebrated our two-year old with a perfectly simple, sweet, intimate party.

What started out as a plan for a  bonanza of a house warming/toddler birthday with all the things and all the people turned into a small gathering of just a couple of friends and grandparents. We decided to move the party from the lunch hour–and Eli’s prime nap time (what were we thinking!?) to a relaxed early afternoon time slot at two o’clock (how appropriate, no?). Instead of burgers and hot dogs and all the fixings, Simeon made a tapas dish called papas bravas and a strawberry upside-down cake. Maggie and Sam brought a vibrant green salad and Emily and Scott brought a bubbly wine for the grown-ups. With vanilla ice cream and sugar cones from the pantry it was the perfect amount of food for the guests and super scrumptious all around!

Good food, good people, and a best of all: a brand-spanking new Radio Flyer tricycle for the birthday boy. He rode that thing in circles all afternoon. We even taught the boys how to hitch a ride on the back! They loved it. It’s so fun to witness these little friends fostering a friendship that I hope will last and last.

And then, as we started singing “Happy Birthday” to my baby boy, he grabbed my face in his hands and pushed his cheek next to mine. He held us there until the song ended–suspended side by side. As I reflect now, it’s how I’d like us to remain as he grows. Arms and faces and hearts, looking forward together side by side. With plenty of cake to share, of course.

 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Eli!

Eli, you’re two!

Happy birthday to my smiley, savvy, spirited son. My tiny twin, traveling companion and curious co-conspirator. Two years on this earth and you have become more of yourself each and everyday.

I want to tell you: You are utterly delightful. You have an unmatched enthusiasm that shines especially bright when you see big trucks and “mobycles” (motorcyles). You unselfconsciously share your pleasure with anyone in earshot. “WHHOOOAAA!” you exclaim, finger pointing out the window at the massive wheels. “Mobycle by!!” [Translation: “A motorcycle just went by!”]

You enjoy learning the names of things (“What dis? Mama, what dis?”). And you allow yourself the full experience of your feelings–no matter how big or joyful or painful. Sometimes, because you’re only just two, your feelings overtake you and you fall instantly to the ground like you’ve heard enemy warfare when it was only my announcement that its bedtime and we’re not going back downstairs to read. You look up at me with an exaggerated frown and a big crocodile tear rolling down your cheek and its all I can do not to crack a smile back because you’re just so cute when you’re pouty.

Your words are coming in more fluently now and you enjoy using them with tremendous frequency.  “Bye bye, mama, vroom vroom!” is something you now say to my red Subaru Forester whenever we leave the car to go inside. “Walking” you announce as a pedestrian passes us. “All done, eggs” you tell us as you finish eating breakfast. You’ve recently started calling me Mommy after hearing Sammy Koschak use the phrase in Portland while we were visiting. “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” You yell my name and smile most mornings when I come in the room. “Daddy,” too has become a favorite word. Especially when I’ve put you down for the night and you don’t yet want to go to sleep. “Daddy, up, up! Daddy, up!” You also like to tell us to “sit down” on the wool ottoman that flanks your crib for a nightly song set of favorite lullabies. Unless of course, you reject each one on the first note with a commanding, “No!”. On those nights we sit for a few moments with the soft light of dusk peering through the blinds and MoMo gently nuzzling at our hands for attention and chin rubs before getting up and letting you fall asleep on your own. You’re getting so good at that, kiddo!

You’re aware and curious and enjoy mimicking other kids whom you find fascinating. You’re an observer and I think you’re going to make a great writer and journalist or engineer or artist because you’re aware of the details of things and know what attracts you and repels you in equal measure.

It’s clear you know yourself even if you can’t express it to us yet and it is among my greatest joys to witness you as you come into your being.

Eli, I love you. I am amazed by you. I still regularly ask out loud, “where did you come from?” And silently to myself I acknowledge that I’ve known your old soul from the beginning of time. You, my stardust child, are as ancient as the wind and as fresh as the sunrise. What tomorrow holds of course I can only imagine, but if my mind serves, year three will be adventure we both won’t want to miss for even one second.

Happy birthday, Bubba.

Here’s a brief look back at your second year:

Currently – April 2017

Staying up way past my bedtime. It’s nearly midnight I can’t sleep. What’s a lapsed blogger to do? Write a blog post!

Listening to kid music–we’ve just discovered Bryant Owen on YouTube and Amazon Music and I think Simeon and I appreciate the new tunes more than Eli!

Scheming a few weekend getaways. Having just returned from Sacramento we’re looking at Vermont, Cape Cod, Connecticut, and Boston next!

Healing from one form of illness or another. Eli has had his fair share of whatever’s been going around (and sharing it with his poor parents) and we’re doing what we can to try to take care of it all for good.

Drinking lots of water (and coffee). I recently found out I am way too dehydrated (I know the coffee doesn’t help) so I’m trying to compensate with lots more water. It’s hard!

Trying to cook more. I found a new cookbook I’m obsessed with called Sugar Detox Me and I love all the recipes and meal plans. Now I only need to up my cooking skills and perhaps we’ll have dinner!

Enjoying the spring weather. It was actually 80 degrees today!!! I hardly believe it myself. We enjoyed a lovely and slow family day and spent a fair amount of time outside soaking up the sunshine and sitting on our sun porch as afternoon fell. Perfection.

Delighting in Eli’s growing vocabulary. Today he said “popcorn” for the first time. It’s amazing to say something to him and suddenly hear it parroted back in his adorable little voice. I don’t doubt we’ll be hearing sentences soon.

Preparing for a podcast launch. Yes! I’m working on a podcast show all about living an intentional life and expect to have the first few episodes ready for your ears this spring. (!!)

Decorating our new home. I went to my first tag sale of the season on Saturday and scored a two plant stands and a cute decorative pillow.

Basking in the love from our visit to California for Passover. We enjoyed being with family so much and Eli was a total trooper through all the traveling. I’m so grateful!

Enjoying an afternoon with family at the Sacramento Zoo

 

Of course

Of course, the week we planned to move into our new place I get hit with the worst case of flu in recent memory and can hardly move my body from one room to another let alone move myself, my stuff and my family to another house. But isn’t that just how it goes?

Of course the kid gets sick on your day off, of course it rains the night you leave the windows rolled down, of course the store carries every size shoe in the one you want except the size you wear. Sometimes, we run the risk of averting the very things we most want by wanting them so hard…

The other day I was recounting to Simeon a story of the Bank Account, which got me thinking about these “of course” times. While we were living in Vermont, I started my life coaching business and in order to track my new business expenses I opened a separate checking account. Now that we’ve relocated and the bank isn’t local, I don’t want to have the account open. So, naturally I tried to close it.

I’ve literally been trying to close the account for months. But, no matter what actions I take, the account never seems to get much closer to closing. Of course…

I call the company, I’m put on hold, I call back, they tell me to send in the forms, I send in the forms. They lose the forms. I send them again. I have to go to a local bank and get a cash advance, they don’t tell me I need specific ID. I go back with the ID. They don’t tell me I need to know the exact amount. I return another day with the exact amount. They can’t do Mastercard, another bank can. I go back to another bank another day with the right ID and the exact amount – to a bank that specifically uses Mastercard, and they’ve just closed for the day. I go back again but now the card is void. I call the bank. They say its fine. I tell them then close the account and by now on the brink of tears I tell her, please help me help you help me. I just want to close this account!

So finally, finally, the woman helps. She says she’s sending the money left in the account via check. Which is not received at our new house because I am laying out sick at the old house. The certified mail is left at the main USPS station. As soon as I’m well I hurry over and hand in the crumpled pink slip eagerly awaiting the retrieval of this piece of mail that has been months coming. And do you know what?

They can’t find it. The tracking says it should be there. But they can’t find it anywhere.

Of course.

By now I am laughing. Of course they can’t find it! Before they can find it I need to get right with the bank and the account and the lost funds. I need to be ok with it not being ok. Before it will get righted I need to right myself about the whole situation. And isn’t that just it? The change starts with me. The world will not right itself while I swirl. I must first right myself.

My energy can create miracles and my energy can create quagmires. This is what creating our own reality is all about. It means that how I show up affects what I get.

So today, I’m enjoying the silly mess and reveling in my power to create. Because even when things go wrong, there is something that went right – your work is to find it, lift it up out of the darkness and celebrate it until it grows and grows and grows and you can’t see anything else.

My way of celebrating today is to share the silliness with you, in the hopes that you will laugh in related recognition and enjoy the frivolity of things that went wrong turning around and going right again. May it be so, for us all.

 

We’re Moving to Pittsfield!

Beginnings

I’m learning to be bold. To claim my space–physical space, mental space. Space has become so important to me. I need space… 

I started writing this post back in July of last year. I guess this blog post also needed some space of its own…

Spaciousness was a word that kept falling onto the contours of my mind last summer, echoing as I encountered the many micro-ways I kept my self small. Kept my life small. And not in obvious ways, no. My life had been expanding both in size and scope for a few years at least. A ross-country move, multiple new jobs, life partner, marriage, pregnancy, new baby, more moves, more jobs. Just life. And despite being in the wide open spaciousness of rural Vermont country life at the time, the idea of more space occupied my mind. I wanted a space a could expand into, fully unfurled and expressed. What would a bolder me accomplish? What could that woman do? Her potentiality strained me as I navigated a life lived too small. Like a plant, not yet repotted.

Today, in March of 2017, I think I have stepped into the bolder me I earlier craved. At least a little bit. I took a huge, bold, risk and moved my family south to Massachusetts–less on whim and more on prayer.

This week, after five months of this bold journey, my little family of three says farewell to our home-away-from-home, which we’ve been sharing with my wonderful in-laws, and moves into a home of our own. A space of my own.

We are moving into a 3-bedroom duplex apartment with a front and back porch, a bathtub (!), and a large backyard that leads into a multi-hundred acre park full of wild trails and daffodils and lilacs come spring. It’s a dreamy home with glossy, creaky wooden floors, bright white walls, and a landlady who carefully tends to the building like a mama bear to her cub. It is the perfect next home from which to expand, judiciously, as we start yet another season. And how perfect to find home in spring? We begin anew, again.

And as I think about it, what boldness there is in the planting! The unknowingness of the enterprise: the wild nature of the elements of earth, and sky, and rain, could throw off even the most experienced gardener. What will come of our planting here in the Berkshires this year? I hope a most fruitful harvest. And so far, all signs point to the greatest bounty yet. With room to grow.