breaking the cycle

Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending an annual trip to the Finger Lakes region in NY with some of my closest college friends, their spouses, and a gaggle of other friends. There were 16 of us in total; six couples; two sisters and a friend; and another friend of the group. Ten of us are parents who were really excited for a kid-free, adults-only weekend — what a time to be alive!

We rented a limo-bus for the big wine event and spent the entirety of the day eating snacks, visiting wineries & breweries, wine tasting, and singing songs. Honestly, this is the next best thing besides a wedding reception and basically all that we have to look forward to as a time to let loose since we are all married. We capped the night off with a trip to a local bar that was within walking distance.

At the bar, we were all paired off and checking in with each other on recent moves, familial relationships, our kids, work, etc. This is not atypical. We are a group of doctors, engineers, marketers, educators, and law professionals (among other things). My friends and I seem to have similar familial backgrounds and strangely, so do our husbands — dysfunction, hurt, frustration rising to the top of the guys’ childhood experiences.

It is not lost on me that each man in this group serves as an amazing supporter of their wives, their children, and each others’ children. We are all the better for knowing one another and I cannot express my gratitude enough that within this group of men who have experience emotional abuse and more, each one of them has made promises to themselves to do better; to be better.

Each of these guys wakes up each morning, determined to be a better version of those who modeled parenting and manhood to them. Each approaches each day making deliberate decisions that encourage and better not only their spouses and children but society as a whole. Each and every day, these men break the cycle that was modeled for them — a cycle that set out to destroy the livelihood of those around them (and those including them).

My admiration runs deep for each and every single one of these guys who chooses to prioritize feelings and family over anger and abuse. We so often read about breaking cycles and statistically, we know how difficult that can be, so to be surrounded by people who looked at toxic relationships in their lives and decided they deserved better and their children will not get that exposure to such toxicity from them is really powerful.

Our bar chats were very serious, especially on the heels of a lighthearted limo ride full of wine, dancing, and scream-singing, and fortunately, our Wendy’s nightcap was also light and full of laughter, but those conversations between are so meaningful and I just cannot believe how fortunate my husband and I are to have such strong support from afar all year long and have such compassion and strength from this group of friends (most of whom we see once a year for this event and some of whom we only know because of this event).

On the drive back to MA on Sunday, I brought this up to talk to my husband about it and he noted it’s something that has stood out to him as well. We are all able to support each other so deeply because we all have respect for one another’s experiences and we trust that the support and advice given is genuine and out of care. We should all be so lucky to have such models around us and our families, pushing toward a new normal for all to see.

national adoption day

Every year, we try to observe and celebrate National Adoption Day. Our Gotcha Day is one of the most special days I’ve experienced, but we don’t tend to celebrate it wholly because it’s a mere two days after our son’s birthday. We want to give our little man all of the celebration he deserves for being so resilient and amazing and so we use the distance from his birthday to observe this special time.

Each National Adoption Day, we’ve celebrated with a special treat (usually, one involving actual sugar and not just nuts — 4 considers almonds a ‘special after-dinner treat’) and read all of our adoption picture books. 4 knows that he’s adopted; it’s something we talk about often and try to have open and honest communication about. We always want him to be able to ask questions and talk openly about his feelings now and of course when he better understands what adoption means.

National Adoption Day is such a special day for so many families. I understand that adoption started by a child being separated by his/her bio family and I’m sure there is a lot to digest and process at some point about that. I have several friends who are adopted and several more who’ve adopted (two of my sorority sisters adopted their beautiful littles and are also adopted themselves). I am so grateful for their support and openness to answering questions when I’ve had them.

I always like to take the time to think of 4’s village when National Adoption Day rolls around. We are so fortunate to have so much love showered on our little guy and even more so that we keep in touch with his former foster family. His former foster mom is amazing and she’s also his Godmother; the most special piece about maintaining a relationship with her (aside from our friendship) is the bond 4 shares with his former foster sister. I call her little girl Mother Hen — she’s only a year older than 4 but just loved him to pieces when he was a baby and they still share that bond when they’re together.

I joke that Mother Hen is 4’s ride or die; sometimes he’ll talk about her and say they’re going to drive her mom’s car for an adventure. I just picture them joyriding as teens — it’s a good thing they don’t live close-by so that this isn’t a true possibility but their bond is special and I cherish it for my son. This year for National Adoption Day, we will go through our pictures from his adoption and will read our favorite books: The Tummy Mummy and Wish are two of my personal favorites.

We try to ensure that our little love always knows how special he is and how loved he is by everyone who’s entered his life. I mean, we are talking about a small child who brought a clinic team (nine physicians from nine different departments) to tears as they beamed with pride over his growth. I love celebrating him and celebrating this special day as a family filled with joy on this special day.

 

national zoo

This weekend, 4 and I are boarding a plane and heading to our nation’s capital to see ‘the bunnies’ — 4 has been obsessed with pandas (or bunnies, as he so lovingly names them) since he first saw one in a book. Two years ago, we were in town for a baby shower and took him to see them at the zoo — enter, Little Bunny, the stuffed panda he chose there. Little Bunny has been his right-side guy every night since then. It seems 4 is excited to add a sister-bunny to the mix this weekend and has already asked if he can pick one out.

Who am I to say no?

I am really excited for this mommy-4 trip. Our last trip together was in the spring when we went to Great Wolf Lodge; there, my son kept yelling, “I’m trump patrol and I’m ready to roll” — what he meant was ‘chug patrol’ from a British cartoon he enjoys: Chuggington. I can only imagine what little statements will come up on this trip.

We land late Saturday morning and will head straight to our hotel and then lunch with a dear friend. Sunday is our national zoo trip with some of my closest girlfriends and one’s little lady (she’s two) and Monday is completely up in the air — whatever the little man is into, I suppose: Could be a museum trip or a few hours at a local playground. At the end of the day, I’m just really excited to have this time to spend with him. He’s my little buddy and our time together is so special.

I am also excited to share with him where I spent nearly 10 years of my adult life. I love getting back to DC and haven’t been there in two years now. I have kept in touch with my closest friends from there (of course, I just went to Charleston with one) and so having 4 be a part of that circle is also something that’s so very important to me. Every trip we take, he gets to learn more about his tribe of people who care for him endlessly.

I’m not sure what else will be on our agenda — I’ve thought about a special dessert trip to the Melting Pot because who doesn’t love chocolate fondue and I read about a local doughnut shop just near our hotel; of course, I love my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC, Cactus Cantina and 2Amys, right next door with the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I am packing our Rider Safe so that we can take a taxi through the city if we so choose and maybe get to my alma mater for a quick tour.

I am all packed and ready to go and my heart could just explode thinking of all of the memories we get to make this weekend. To top it off, 4 had a great day at school today, so we are heading into the weekend in a really good headspace and are ready to take on our mommy-4 adventure!

*Note: This was written Friday but I set the publication date to go live after our return (safety reasons).

mom’s trip

Traveling is good for the soul; this is absolutely a fundamental belief of mine. I love to go places and experience new things; without hesitation, quality time is my love language and what better way to spend quality time with people than to head off on an adventure.

If you’re looking for ‘proof in the pudding’ … I do not have an engagement ring or a wedding band. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam in lieu of an engagement ring and spent two glorious weeks trekking through that beautiful country. Chicago was a little trip that took place of the wedding bands. While my husband is my favorite travel companion, I was able to travel to meet my dear friend this past week.

She and her family moved to Florida over the summer and the prospect of heading someplace other than Kansas was great. We decided to ‘meet in the middle’ and spent a few days in Charleston, SC. Holy moly — what a beautiful, quaint town. When I returned home, my son asked what we did the whole time and I told him that I talked so much, I lost my voice.

It’s true — we walked 20+ miles in 3.5 days, talked, took a tour of the Aiken-Rhett House, moseyed around The Battery, walked through outdoor markets, and met up for rooftop drinks with my first DC roommate. It was a great way to celebrate 16 years of friendship and the much needed friend time I so badly desired.

Charleston was a breath of fresh air: It was in the upper 70s and was super sunny each day; had some issues with our hotel but they compensated us with prosecco and cake; and we were picked up Friday night by my old roomie in his golf cart and then got to meet his girlfriend and her son.

Everything that went right could have and I returned home to hugs and a visit from my parents (they got to our house about 30 minutes after I did). Friendships are something that I cherish and I try to stay in touch with people the best I can, so this trip where I got to spend a few days with my DC bestie and then get to meet up with another old friend was great.

We all knew each other before significant others — there’s nothing like the people you navigated the waters of your early 20s with. We’d all moved to DC at the same time; I met my bf at the Steelers’ bar my first weekend there and as the only two girls in the bar, we became fast friends. Then, I found a place in Georgetown but needed a roommate: Enter, Roommate — he was the first out of 16 people I’d met who I didn’t think would murder me in my sleep (or when I was awake for that matter). We spent our earliest twenties bar hopping and making not the greatest choices at times. It’s great to reconnect with those we know at different parts of our lives and was fun to reminisce about what life was like before kids and a dog.

I always feel like I’m the best wife and mom I can be when I have time to be ME instead of always H’s wife or 4’s mom and what a better way to be true to yourself than spend a few days with the people who knew you before any of the big life changes did. In a couple weeks, I am taking 4 to DC to get together with friends of mine — these are people in his village who love him and support him from afar. They are also people who knew single me and love me just the same.

Being a stay at home mom certainly can have its challenges. For me, those challenges have nothing to do with my child but rather the difficulties around maintaining my own personal identity and it really is great to have that time which always allows me to come home feeling like I can take on the world … or at least my household.

kids & responsibilities

We believe in shared household responsibilities. Some people classify these things as chores but we think they’re necessary for everyone to pitch in for the house to run smoothly and also for the kids to learn to take proper responsibility for things.

3 has the simplest chores, of course. He is responsible for matching his socks, he also folds and puts away his pants and pajamas (though I fold the tops). He can’t reach the other drawers yet, but he does take ownership for what he can. He is also responsible for keeping his room clean and putting away his dishes. He enjoys feeding the dog, too, so he frequently takes on that responsibility (or watching him in the backyard).

11 and 13 have similar chores: They both do their own laundry (this started a couple years ago when they both decided they were done sorting laundry; it started as a consequence and we just decided to turn it into a responsibility); on some weekends, they do some dusting and swiffering and each clean one of the two bathrooms they use. They are responsible also for keeping their rooms clean and doing their homework.

In the mornings, 11 takes the recycling down and in the evenings, he’s earned dish duty (loading the dishwasher). 13 unloads the dishes in the mornings and walks the dog after school — she just started this responsibility after turning 13. It’s comical; today, for example, she stood at the bottom of the steps begging the dog to come downstairs for his walk. We decided to add this responsibility to take something off my plate but Brutus isn’t really impressed; hopefully, he will start to trust her intentions sooner than later so he more swiftly will leave with her.

We feel strongly that having household responsibilities is important for a few reasons — it makes everyone invested in the house, it allows everyone to contribute, and it offers ownership of certain spaces/aspects of things. What types of chores/responsibilities do your families divvy?

jan reflections & feb goals

I have been really enjoying my new schedule of yoga and time in Boston. I cannot truly describe how it makes me feel – I am less stressed and more free and it is positively affecting my life far beyond the mat. My husband and I have talked about the small changes we’ve been making so far in 2019 (largely, being deliberate about working out and making time for ourselves to feel like ourselves).

I have scale goals and non-scale goals, so I’m not going to delve too into those but I wore a shirt this past week that fit looser than it ever has. It was noticeable. Out of curiosity, I weighed myself and took some measurements this morning. I’d like to do it again at the beginning of March and see what, if anything, has changed.

In addition to weekly yoga classes, I’d like to get the dog for a nice, long walk on Sundays when I don’t practice yoga. Today, we knocked out 1.5 miles and he is snoring to my right as I type. This is good for the both of us, but the New England weather plays a role in this goal.

Of course, I have non-movement goals, too. I made time to read a few quick reads in January and now that my semester has started, I have less time to read recreationally. I bought the book, The Grace of Enough, and it’s my goal to read that in my spare time. (NOTE: On Monday, I took a mid-day yoga class before I headed to work. I noticed that half a dozen attendees of my class had books; the English professor in me was giddy! I took note of this and plan to toss my book in my bag for the T/before class to maximize reading time.)

Lastly, activities with my toddler. I want to be more deliberate in getting to activities that allow/encourage him to socialize more. We tend to do a lot of museum or zoo visits, so my goal for February is to take him to move open-gym type activities.

Do you set monthly intentions/goals?

january reads

I really enjoy reading and typically opt for heavier reads during my breaks from work; this winter break, however, was riddled with illness and I just didn’t have it in me to do much critical thinking, nor did I have the capacity to read anything intense. I picked up Educated at the library but returned without opening it; I’m going to table that read for a later date.

As the semester is quickly approaching, I thought it nice to recap the three books I finished in the first two weeks of 2019. I am not great at doing recaps, largely because I forget nearly everything I do in the day-to-day, but there were topics that truly gave me pause while reading and I’d like to circle back to those areas when I have time to write about them.

The first two books both touched on the balancing act that is being a working woman and being a mom. I love staying home with my son; it’s truly the greatest experience and I’m fortunate that we can afford for me to do this. I do struggle, however, with the lack of paycheck I bring home — I mean, I was 30 when I got married, so I’d been taking care of myself prior to that — working, budgeting, buying all of the clothes – shoes – and purses. This is something I struggle with regularly and I gained insights from each of the first two books. As I mentioned, I do plan to circle back to this at a later time, but wanted to let any parents struggling to feel balanced in the area of work/momming, these books may offer some insights!

Image result for balancing in heels

Balancing in Heels — Kristin Cavallari
This book took about 12 minutes to read. The writing is not high-level but the tone is genuine and the content really drove home for me the importance of balancing work/outside the home responsibilities with my love of being a parent. I also really enjoyed the smoothie recipes listed!

 

Image result for instant mom nia vardalos

Instant Mom — Nia Vardalos
As someone who’s been through infertility, IVF, and adoption through foster care, this book really resonated with me. I felt so many connections to Nia’s experiences. Of course, my personal side offers way too much to share in a book recap, but there were two quotes that hit deeply: “I feel powerless. The doctors explain it’s the drugs. I’ll bet it’s the glaring fact that this is not working” (36) / “You can’t push grief down and pretend it’s not there” (57). These two quotes really nailed how I felt during the lowest point of my life and it was empowering to read such rawness from someone else’s experience and know that we both (and many other women) overcome such difficulties.

 

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Whiskey in a Teacup — Reese Witherspoon

I read this in a day — sweet and quick. Her grandmother seemed like a real spit-fire and I appreciated the care used when sharing family stories and I loved the chapter on dogs.