life is going to change dramatically when little bug arrives. i can anticipate and foresee some of these changes but others are going to take jp and i (and ramona!) by storm. before life gets rocked and we’re juggling a toddler and a helpless newborn and patio season opening up at the populist (which makes for an increasingly busy hubby) jp and i set aside a long weekend to spend some time with just the two of us. our intention was to slow down, be a pair free of our daily commitments and distractions, and reconnect with each other. so off to a ranch in hye, texas (that’s hill country, y’all) owned by jp’s aunt and uncle.
we were blessed with great weather, free and spacious accommodations, beautiful sunsets, wonky wi-fi that forced us –even more– to be present with each other, and a golf cart that enabled me to explore the land freely (this belly doesn’t get me too far these days). i understand a baby moon is a luxury that many people can’t find the time or finances for and i do not take it for granted we were able to steal away for these handful of precious days.
jp is the most important person in my life. he is my lover, my rock, my best friend, my confidant, my reason, my chosen one. he is steadfast, kind, humble and pretty much your poster-child of patience. living and learning and loving with him has taught me much about being grounded, listening well, and constructively and respectfully agreeing to disagree. at the risk of sounding cheesy, being his partner has made me a much better person than before i met him. and he also loves and embraces all my quirks and who i am at my core!
i gush about all of this bc, while i LOVE LOVE LOVE being a mother and that will always be a part of who i am, my partnership with my husband is the most important relationship i will cultivate on this earth. we are a team. and i want to continue to work on our marriage and our union so that when ramona and little bug watch us, it will be so evident to them how we are able to love them so well: bc jp and i love each other as best and as selflessly as we humanly can. jp and i working on a strong, healthy, loving, respectful marriage is, perhaps, one of the most essential things we can give to our children (that and the freedom for them to be themselves… but that’s another post). my hope is that a strong marriage will set them up to love themselves and to expect and give good, honest, respectful love from and to their future significant others.
furthermore, if we do things right, ramona and little bug will be leaving the nest around the time they turn 18. and i shudder to think that jp and i will have not made the effort and taken the time to grow our love and connection with each other and, instead, feel like strangers bc we don’t know what the hell to do w the other now that we don’t have such an active role as parents.
parenthood, especially the early years, is hard. when ramona was first born i had awful thoughts about jp and our marriage. some of these were fueled by crazy hormonal changes going on in my body, and others were caused by the great shift that had happened in our family. in the beginning, with all this newness, we didn’t always adjust as well or as quickly as our emotions needed. and there are, of course, still days every so often where we completely miss each other. and having young (basically helpless) children compounds this. and it can be lonely and frustrating. but, i will tell you this: it is a season. and it too shall pass. especially if both you and your partner are on board w working your darndest to communicate honestly and respect the other (even if biting, nasty words get hissed in the heat of the moment) and are open to being humble and asking for forgiveness and giving it freely.
this post didn’t quite go the direction i had originally planned: but marriage is hard and i think struggles like how babies can totally knock your marriage on its head need to be talked about more openly so that others don’t feel they’re all alone. that, and how important it is to set aside the craziness of life and find time to connect with your lover. the payoff, when the chicks have flown the coop and it’s the two of you old birds wondering what to do with your empty nest, will be well worth it.
thought you’d be getting more of texas hill country? below is my list of suggested things to do (besides soaking up the open space, wide skies, and drinking on the porch) if you find yourself one hour west of austin, texas, in what people are calling the napa of texas (i know, 30 weeks pregnant is prime time to go wine tasting. ha!)
this week’s contributor is from courtney, of parent tango, a she says/he says blog about marriage, family, and parenting. in this post she writes about the transition of being a mother of one to multiples, and the beauty of it.
I know several women who are pregnant with their second child. All of them have expressed trepidation over how they will ever be able to love the second child as much as they love the first. I can relate. The mother of four and an only child myself, I am here to tell you, you can love all of your children hugely. And you’re doing a good thing by given them another person to share their young life with.
As an only child, I went along obliviously happy as a lark, not realizing how fortunate I was to benefit from the perks of having my parents’ full attention and the opportunities that went along with that. But when I was 10, my parents told me they had had another baby, born prematurely, two years after I was born. He lived only an hour. Besides the heartache of my parents which I couldn’t even wrap my young brain around, I was suddenly so sad for myself. I went from being contentedly solo in the world to feeling the absence of a sibling I had never known to miss.
From then on, whenever my parents were particularly annoying (they grew increasingly annoying as I entered my teen years, naturally), I wished my brother had been there to commiserate with. I felt lonely for the first time ever and wished he had been there to hang around with. I was changed. And it changed what I thought about having my own children someday.
I married a man who had wanted to have four children since he was a young child. I wasn’t so sure about that number, since four people sounded like a crowd to me! As life and my husband’s fear of a vasectomy would have it, we did indeed have four. For the most part, our kids are friends and certainly devote a lot of time to talking about how incredibly annoying their parents are. It must be great for them.
Sometimes I look at them and remember when I was like my pregnant friend, unable to imagine how I could possibly, ever, love another child as much as I loved my first child. So in the wee hours of the morning, before heading to the hospital in labor I whispered to my sleeping two-year-old, “I’m sorry.” Yes, I apologized to my first child for giving birth to my second! It seems so unfair to the second child and it was so untrue. I wasn’t sorry I was having him. And I wasn’t sorry I’d given her a sibling. Of course, I adored him heart and soul immediately. And my first child loved him too when she wasn’t hating him.
I often watch my children interact (with some envy) and see how their relationships with each other morph and change over the years. They all have different relationships and roles with each other. Most of the time, they probably don’t consider each other much of a gift. But they are, providing playmates, confidants, and exercises in all sorts of life skills.
So I take back the apology I made to my daughter 20 years ago. I had more than enough love to go around. And I gave them each other.
this is so beautifully written and i appreciate the honesty in it. i am a bit nervous about introducing another child into the mix bc i am having so much fun with miss ramona and am a little worried how a little squish is going to change our dynamic! however, i know that what these two siblings will do for each other will be immense. thanks, courtney!
my aunt texted me this photo over the weekend with the question “who does this remind you of?” i had a hunch and was so excited when that hunch was correct: it’s a photo of my grandma driver (my father’s mother) when she was a little girl growing up in fort wayne, indiana. when i showed ramona the photo in the morning and asked her who it is, she said “mona.” i can see why:
the likeness is uncanny. and to see it make it through four generations blows my mind. i asked my grandma about the photo and she told me:
I suppose I was around three or a little younger since it doesn’t look like a November kind of weather. I can’t say I remember much about it except we lived across from the high school stadium and I am told when I was a little younger I ate a little box of garlic that was sitting on the back porch; I must have reeked. It is a wonder they didn’t give me away. The baby buggy I have in the garage, put together last summer by your Papa. Grandma Stowell had carefully shipped it out here many years ago, but it had been in [my aunt and uncle's] garage all those years.
it’s an honor to have ramona look so much like my grandmother, gloria. she is one amazing lady: spunky and witty and full of love. it’s great to see ramona inherit –not only her adorable cheeks and chin– but also these personality traits that will certainly serve her well in her life. i love you, grandma!
jp’s mom has stage IV breast cancer.
that’s how it felt to receive this news. seemingly out of the blue. but that’s how bad news arrives, isn’t it? it doesn’t gracefully edge it’s way into your peripheral and then tiptoe into your line of vision, waiting for you to acknowledge its shy wave from a little ways away, much like a guest in a receiving line at a wedding. no. it’s more like someone in a monkey suit jumping out from behind a couch when you walk into a dimly lit basement. it sucks.
first a lump. then a confirmation of a lump. then a biopsy. then cancerous results. then in more lymph nodes than projected. then in lung fluid.
bam. bam. bam.
i spent the better part of an afternoon in bed racked with grief, unable to move or catch my breath. having been dealt little to no tragedy in my life, this has been one of the heavier things i’ve had to “deal” with.
thank God for a close-knit family bc “deal with” it we are. i’m not sure what the proper response or plan-of-action is for a family that receives as troubling of news that, right now, we’ve got to get really serious about supporting our matriarch in fighting a battle she was not expecting to face. but i’m certain that the way i’ve seen my husband’s family band together –the way i’ve seen my father-in-law take the reins and be my mother-in-law’s greatest advocate and loyal sidekick– is not far from what i imagine to be ideal.
the two of them, my in-laws, they are doing this together. in addition to going to every appointment hand-in-hand, they’re researching and interviewing and keeping themselves open to alternative methods of treatment to supplement traditional treatments. there’s a hormone pill she’s taking (and eventually chemo and surgery) but there are also vitamins and a diet heavy in greens and superfoods and whole grains and exercise every day. and they are being honest and open and communicating to their community about what is going on: the good, the bad, the ugly, the encouraging, the tough news. and people are responding to this transparency with an outpouring of love and support and good vibes. i’ve watched the way my mother-in-law has, yes actually, embraced what life has thrown at her. she seemed to understand from the beginning (though i’m sure she’ll tell you it wasn’t as easy as i’m making it sound) that though she couldn’t change her diagnosis she could change the way she was going to live with this more intimate knowledge of the precariousness of life. it’s been truly beautiful.
and i’ve seen the five of us kids (jp, his three siblings, and me) change our outlook from one of complete devastation to one of camaraderie and joy at being able to look at this woman with new eyes, even more proud and more thankful to have her as such a huge part of our life than we already were; certainly working to take less in life and family for granted.
we don’t know all that is ahead for our family, for mary. it’s still strange to be placed overnight in the “there’s a cancer patient in the family” camp; i’m still digesting that this is, yes in fact, something that can happen to me (don’t we subconsciously live life assuming the bad things we hear about won’t happen to us?). we do know that, in just one month of hormone treatment, her cancer shrunk 15% and there was little to no sign of it in her pleural lung fluid. this is amazing. and we do know that survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer are higher for those who have a strong support system and, well, this has been built into our family from the beginning.
i’ll keep you posted.
photo by the most amazing, megan newton.
as a child, during trips to my grandparents’ home in florida, my grandfather had a fairy that put tootsie rolls in his desk drawer. the grandkids checked the drawer at least once a day. and what a treat it was to find the little rolls waiting for us. how cool that my grandfather had access to a magical being that would be so thoughtful and generous. when the rolls stopped showing up, i’m not sure i thought much of it. perhaps the fairy forgot or didn’t know we were there. and then i got older and didn’t think of it at all. years later, when i watched my parents do the same thing, i remembered the tootsie rolls in the desk drawer, and fondly realized that the fairy was my grandfather.
my parents have a similar arrangement for their grandkids. in their spacious backyard is a big, old tree. and they’ve let a little pixie build her home there, complete with a rather sturdy wood door leading to her abode. the pixie leaves tiny sweet treats and seashells and small coins for the visiting grandkids. without fail, the older ones head out there directly, which keeps the pixie on her toes and ensures she’s got a full stash of goodies so she never runs out. ramona’s older cousins made sure she was initiated into these treasure hunts on our july visit to minneapolis. she was delighted.
and a handful of years from now, the pixie will most likely stop leaving treats and ramona will wonder, aloud or to herself, why the pixie decided to stop. and then she’ll forget about the pixie. and then, when she has children of her own, it’ll all make beautiful, whimsical sense. and that’s when jp and i will be figuring out a way to leave small tokens of love for our grandchildren.
what special secrets do you do your parents do for your little ones? or do you do for them? what memories do you have of ways your grandparents made your visits extra special?