January 9, 2016
by Tricia
1 Comment

It’s still the new year

I’ve been feeling a bit behind with my start into the new year.

tree and sky

My resolutions sit half-finished in the new journal I got for Christmas. I haven’t come here to write about the freshness of the new year or my plans for it. The feeling of a brand new start that usually takes over my heart on January 1, slowing my every movement into something I regard as precious and auspicious, well that feeling hasn’t come yet. I suspect it simply may not come. I didn’t unroll my yoga mat again until four days into the year. I haven’t picked up a book this week, despite the resolution I know I will make to read more. I didn’t stay up until midnight or even wake for long enough to watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t choose a word for the year or, as Lindsey so perfectly notes, no word chose me.

Besides cutting my hair, I’ve put no great divider between last year and this year.

I’ve sort of just rolled into 2016.

For twelve years, the ritual of sitting for hours in the soft spot between years to reflect and resolve was so important to me that I’d nearly breakdown without it. I was a resolute resolution maker. I believed that without that time and that reflection and those carefully written plans and goals and thoughts, the new year would surely dissolve into a formless mass of missed opportunities and I’d never truly grow or move forward. I believed it was those pages upon pages and hours upon hours spent writing until my hand ached that paved the way for me to live my best life.

That’s all been changing lately. Maybe it’s a phase. Maybe it’s just that the new year fell awkwardly in the cycle and craziness of life for me this year. Maybe I’m just getting older.

I ended last year with goals not achieved. With plans unfinished. The things I had written down at the start of the year never realized. The word that chose me at the start of last year? I think it walked away mid-way through.

For those same twelve years, that whole mess of unfinished business would have driven me mad. How do I start a new year when the remnants of last year are still tumbling at my feet? I’d have devoted serious time over the holiday break to gather that mess up, put things back together and polish the whole thing so that I could dive into the new year shiny and bright.

But despite the mess and the word abandonment, 2015 was good. Around the mess of the unfinished, I achieved some seriously big goals and painted large sections of the life I want to live. By the end, I felt the weariness of all of that work in my bones. So over the holiday break, I worked a little and slept a little. I played with some legos and watched my children sing and wandered through an art gallery. There was an buzzing inside. I couldn’t sit still and rather than fighting that fluttering feeling, I went with it, and refused to sit long enough to write more than a few sentences. And I simply decided to be ok with that. I’m changing and growing. This new mindset is just part of it.

So here we are, more than a week into 2016, and so far, so good. The year is not a formless mass of mess, at least not yet anyway. I have plans and goals and even some pretty great accomplishments so far.

I’m not swearing off of resolutions all together. I may go back and finish what I started in that journal. I may, as the year settles in and the buzzing energy fades, quietly commit a few goals to paper. By the end of this year I may find myself twitching until I can sit with my journal for a solid afternoon of reflection. But, for now, I’m going to just roll with this moment.

If you, too, haven’t really formalized your resolutions just yet in this new year, take my hand. Let’s roll together.

Happy 2016!

December 31, 2015
by Tricia
6 Comments

Let a little go, keep a little too

This morning, I went to get a haircut and I asked my stylist to chop it all off.

All year, actually for several years, my hair has mostly hung halfway down my back. I’ve kept it that way out of love for long hair, out of attachment to the me who looks like that, and out of fear of what may happen if I let it all go (a note to the fear: it always grows back). I’ve talked a big game about making a big change but I always chicken out once I’m in the chair. I’ll show the stylist all of the photos I’ve pinned of celebrities and the like but when she asks things like, “Do you want it short here like she has it or do you want to be able to pull it into a ponytail?” I go with, “Oh I still want to pull it into a ponytail.” Every single time.

But this time I wanted it gone. The ponytail, the length, all of it.

It was more than new year, new hair. Although how can you not love the symbolism of that, starting a new year with a new look? How perfect to be able to see and feel the difference when you wake up on the first of January? It’s far more effective, I think, to have a touchstone for the real difference between one year and the next, than to simply turn another calendar page or feel the struggle of remembering to change the number at the end on the rare occasion that you write out the year. Hair, actual strands growing from your head that go with you everywhere, feel like a pretty good touchstone. When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you’ll know something is different.

But, also, I wanted to build up a fresh start. I wanted to cut loose a lot of the past year and move into the new a little lighter. With cleaner lines and less weighing me down.

Some years I cling to with white knuckles, even beyond the moment when the last numbers on the clock finally turn. Some years, I’d shudder at the idea of a New Year’s Eve haircut, reluctant to let anything that traveled the year with me go free. But 2015, for all its beauty and loveliness and big beautiful moments, was also overwhelming in a way I can only describe now as constricting. And I’m ready to break out of that.

It used to be that, at the end of a year like this, a year I don’t feel particularly compelled to cling to, I’d be frantically writing resolutions and reflecting like a madwoman, trying to grasp what went wrong so that I could save the new year from such blemishes. But I’m starting to learn that this is simply just life. There are years that feel magical and shine all rosy and sparkly at the end and there are years that feel like a wild train driven by a maniac and I simply can’t wait to hop off. I’m also starting to learn that the moment to hop off doesn’t always have to come at the end. There is no rule that says that a year set into a whirlwind of motion must remain in a whirlwind of motion until the last second. It’s mostly my inertia that keeps me spinning until December is over.

So today, I’m feeling a bit frantic but I don’t have that crazy look in my eye as I try to hole up with my journal and put words to the year so I can fix everything by tomorrow morning. Instead, I’m trying to settle. To sit and breathe for a bit. To hug my people closer and give myself the space to just be for a bit in an effort to prevent tomorrow morning from whipping up a new frenzy. As soon as I type the last word here, the laptop will close, and we’re gonna turn up the music and bake a cake and I think if any year has ever called for a pajama new years eve, this one is singing for it.

I plan to take a bit more control of the frenzy next year so it’s time to rest up and get ready for it. It’s also time to curl up in my blessings because no matter what the year has brought, it ends with me and my people and that means so much good.

Oh, and as for my hair? My stylist wisely advised me to not let it all go. Apparently I have too much hair to go above my shoulders. But we cut it shorter, letting a little go and keeping a little too. As one should.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May you hug your blessings close tonight and embrace the new in the morning.

December 10, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Desperately seeking holiday magic

Monday evening. Oh Monday evening. I planned for you to be oh so magical.

advent calendar

The plan began with me dropping homemade cookies into sandwich bags just before 4pm. Because the holidays call for a sweet twist on the traditional after school snack, yes? Especially on a Monday. Especially when I’m finally over the jet lag and feeling ready to do this. This, of course, is creating a magical holiday season and doing it right.

In my grand plans, the sweet snack would delight my little angels in the car all the way home. They’d sail through homework and after school chores. They’d open the ‘7’ box of our Advent calendar. They’d see hot cocoa and cuddling with books on the couch in their near future. They’d be excited, not so excited that they’d start bouncing off walls, but definitely happy. We’d move peacefully through dinner to eventually find ourselves all under the same blanket on the couch, sipping cocoa and reading about sugar plum fairies and the first gift of Christmas. Oh, and in the middle of it all, I’d bake and decorate a batch of sugar cookies, with the children’s help. The cookies would turn out delightful and beautiful and I’d post photos of them everywhere before we enjoyed them with our cocoa.

Oh my, was it magical. Beautiful. It was the stuff Christmas memories are made of.

In reality, of course, one small cookie does not an after school snack make. In reality, all people, but little people especially, struggle to make their way through chores at the end of the day. In reality, the promise of hot cocoa makes it nearly impossible for a three-year-old and a six-year-old to calmly make it through a meal with a healthy dose of vegetables. In reality, I fail at sugar cookies every year.

The afternoon quickly devolved into a clatter of chaos and loud, of big messes and lots of cleaning, of some tears and lots of complaining, and of hideous sugar cookies that tasted more like cake (not altogether a bad thing but not exactly the thing I was going for).

As I scraped unusable cookie dough off of my hands and transferred the remainder from the refrigerator to the trashcan, I felt like I was making a mess of our holiday season. That in one wild and ridiculous afternoon I had basically trashed the entire season right there with the dough, dashing any hopes of holiday magic or love or wonder.

Because of our Thanksgiving travel, we entered the holiday season a bit late this year. It was really just a handful of days but I’ve been feeling the absence of those days in the box-checking rush I’ve been on since we returned. Spending a week in the hot and humid, I was eager to slip into the warm and cozy winter holiday season. Spending a week so far from my comfort zone, I was desperate to curl up in the familiar magic of the holidays. I craved long, lazy mornings by the fire with our lights twinkling all around. I dreamed of slow, easy evenings with the smell of baking cookies wafting from room to room and the smooth voices of Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby dancing through the house. So I started a mission to catch up on all of the holiday goodness I felt like I had missed. And I ran about trying to do all of the things that equal Christmas magic in my mind.

But sweet holiday memories aren’t things that you can make in a rush from one place to another. They aren’t a thing you can engineer or cram into existence by sheer force of will. You cannot have a magical Monday evening simply because you decided that it is time to make some holiday memories and the clock is ticking so everyone get your aprons on and let’s do this thing. The kinds of holiday memories that you’ll look back on from year to year, it turns out, are not things that can be planned and scheduled and ordered to fit just right.

It turns out, in fact, that you can’t bustle holiday memories into existence. Rather, you have to stop. You have to pause for a minute, make a little space and sit in the quiet that results. You have to settle and let your shoulders drop and your breathing slow so that you can actually hear the music and smell the cookies. And once you’ve made this space, you have to watch the memory start as the tiniest spark. And then you have to not rush that little spark because it has work to do but it is slow, intentional, and ever so important work. You have to just sit back and let it grow. And it will be worth the wait, I promise. It is for me every time.

This time of year it is incredibly hard to sit back and make space. I know. I haven’t done it yet this year, myself. But I know from experience that the memorable holiday that I craved all the way from Bombay back home is possible if I slow down. And I’m working on settling long enough to see it through.

Monday night did end with all of us curled under the same blanket on the couch. We read four books together by candle light and the kids sipped hot chocolate and nibbled cookies we’d made the day before. They were delighted. In their memories, they will probably separate the chaos of the afternoon from that one, singular moment. I’m going to try to do the same.

December 4, 2015
by Tricia
5 Comments

We went to India

Almost two weeks ago, our little family of four set off for ten days in India. We went to visit with family, enjoy a brief exotic beach holiday, and to introduce our kids to my husband’s extended family and one of his childhood homes. We were excited to expand the world for our kids, even just a little bit.

bombay out the window

And I’ve been wanting to write about it. But I couldn’t find the start of the thread to begin to unravel it all. Traveling with kids, international travel, launching into such a shaky world… where do I start?

But I needed to get something out. For posterity sake and for the sake of sharing. So here, in a rough list form, is a birds eye view of our family trip to India.

~~~~~

Introducing your kids to the world is wild

crowded bombay

the crowds and a sleeping head at the bottom that I refused to crop out

We landed in Bombay at 11:30pm local time and our kids were greeted by more people in one constant panorama then they have probably ever seen in their lives. They experienced traffic following no rules or regulations, cars rushing up to each other in intersections and stopping just short of collisions. They rode in auto rickshaws and declared those two  brushes with death the most thrilling rides they’d ever had. We drank tea and ate biscuits in the afternoons and watched Indian music video channels because Bollywood dancing is addictive. We talked regularly about time differences and distances. We visited the Gateway of India and talked about history and the Queen and the same themes of independence from the British that we talk about at home.

But we’re pretty much the same everywhere we go

playing in the sand

stopping as soon as we walk onto the beach to dig in the sand, just as he does in Florida and North Carolina and pretty much anywhere there’s sand

On our second day there we went shopping. Our girl chose beautiful traditional dresses and scarves and a bangle or two. And then she made her way to the toy shop where her grandfather promised to buy her a gift. And she chose Legos. A Lego Friends Lego set. And then she begged us to go home so she could build them right away.

Grandparents love their grandchildren

The best gift that you can give a grandparent is a grandchild in their home. Even the quietest grandparent will sparkle with love.

Crankiness be damned

And your children are still a gift to your parents when they are cranky. When they are tired and jet lagged and homesick and so out of their element that they don’t even know what to do with themselves so they cry and whine and refuse to be touched by anyone but their mommy, your children are still a gift to your parents.

Sleep happens

plane sleeping

Among the big worries threaded throughout the planning of this trip was sleep. Will our children sleep on the plane? Any of the planes?  Will they be so jet lagged that they wake up in the middle of the night ready to party? Will they be able to fall asleep in a strange place?

I’m happy to tell you that our children slept. They slept on the plane rides. All of them. And they slept hard. They woke before the sun, always, but so did we. Because, although I sort of forgot to consider the adults in all of this worry, we were jet lagged too. Kids are adaptable creatures. They are used to being carried and taken care of and moving through the world worry-free. So when they wanted to sleep, they slept.

Sickness doesn’t (necessarily)

Let it be known that a family of four with two small children went to India for ten days, suitcases loaded with pedialite ice pops and culturelle packets and probiotic vitamins. And not a one of them got sick. We diligently avoided water and ice, and anything that may have come into contact with water or ice (freshly washed glasses, produce, etc.) and we stayed safe. I’ve been shoving carrots and apples into my kids’ faces since we returned. But we didn’t get sick.

by the pool in goa

However, we were not immune to homesickness. On our third full day there, our little guy wandered into the room and moaned, “I want to go home.” He gets homesick on overnight road trips so I fully expected this. But big sister heard and suddenly she missed her friends and her bed and her toys and her school and it all got to be a little bit too much. I remember my first experience with homesickness, at college, and how devastating it was. So although it was hard to console them that day, I’m glad that they experienced that feeling now. They’ll be better prepared to deal with it when they get older. We never did cure the homesickness while we were away but we treated it with snuggles in bed, letting ourselves miss home, and taking long naps.

Traveling around the world is scary right now

taj hotel mumbai

The Taj Palace in Mumbai

We left five days after the Paris attacks. My travel-related anxiety shot through the roof and no amount of walking or yoga or deep breathing made it go away. I imagined flights going down and attacks at airports or crowded places in one of the world’s most crowded cities. I feared interminable delays and grounded planes and not making it home. I dreamed up the worst. And when we got home I almost didn’t believe we had done it and made it safely. They world is a terrifyingly dark place to live these days and the last thing I wanted to do last week was travel about it.

But so is staying home…

Statistics lovers love to tell the flight-paranoid that driving your car down the street is far more likely to be catastrophic then a flight across the ocean. And I know that the numbers prove this to be true. I also know that, these days, just waking up in the morning seems to come with its own risks. Movie theaters, city streets and schools, marathons, concerts and sporting events, all of them have ended in tragedy. Just living is risky these days. So if you’re going to wake up and take your first deep breath of the morning, you may as well really live. Ultimately, I told myself over and over  as we traveled that while there is evil in the world and it’s spreading, there is also good. There is joy and love and beauty. And maybe if I stay strong and show those brighter sides of the world to my kids, in some small way I can make a difference and spread a little light in the darkness.

walking in goa

Coming home is still the best part of traveling

There is a thing I’ve heard said about writing which is “I don’t love to write but I love having written.” Well, I don’t always love to travel but I love having traveled. No matter how far I’ve gone or for how long, no matter how enjoyable or stressful or eventful the trip, my favorite parts of all are always coming home. Walking out of the jetway, safely on the ground and not about to take off again. Walking down the ramp at Dulles International airport to the taxi line. The long highway drive home. Walking up to our house again for the first time and stepping inside. I love coming home.

indian ocean selfie

November 13, 2015
by Tricia
1 Comment

Oven light moments

She chooses a small table by the wall. I drop my bag on a chair and hand her my ipad. Then I open my laptop across from her and sit down. She pops her headphones in and nibbles on her chocolate croissant as she begins working a jigsaw puzzle on the screen. I open my most immediate deadline of the day and get to work.

I’d love to take off and push off deadlines every time she has a school holiday. But wow does she get a lot of them now. So today I am testing the theory that I don’t have to, that with her, I can mix things together.

For an hour and a half we sit just like that. She in her little world, me in mine. We lock eyes every time one of us leans a little too hard on the table, causing it to tilt and sway. We smile. I ask her how she’s doing, occasionally peek over the ipad, but she is content and, just sitting with her, I am too. When she’s hit her impressive, almost two-hour limit of sitting there, we leave.

~~~~~

I used to compare my unborn babies to cupcakes.

siblingstogether

Throughout both of my pregnancies you’d hear me wishing for a way to check on the lives growing inside me the way you might turn the oven light on to see just how far you overfilled your cupcake tin and watch the batter solidify and expand. I wanted more than what the occasional ultrasound revealed. I believed that just being able to peek at them in there, safe and sound, to watch them for a minute or two (or more) would calm my nerves. I wanted the visual assurances that everything would be ok, that they would be more than ok.

~~~~~

Later in the afternoon, we’ve done our big tasks for the day. We’ve run errands and she’s bounced alongside of me as we’ve walked, bubbling over with stories that, without her little brother tagging along, she finally has the space and quiet to release. And I have the space and quiet to ask the follow-ups that always linger on my tongue. We’ve begun packing for our upcoming big trip and she’s brought t-shirts and dresses to the suitcases one at a time, taking the task of packing her own things very seriously. I’ve hit a few more deadlines and she’s played with her Legos.

We have time before we need to leave for ballet so we do what we do these days, we drag out our coloring books and spill a box of colored pencils on the table. She shows me her work, asks if I like it, and, of course, I do. We chat about school and family and friends.

~~~~~

The cupcake metaphor still holds as those little lives grow bigger by the minute (though it does become a bit weirder). Now I can see how they’re growing, I watch it happen. I see the progress and the changes. Now I don’t need an oven light to see that they are ok.

But still, I want some assurances. I want to check on them. I want to see the things that, even as they run and twirl around me, I still just can’t see with the naked eye. Are they overflowing in all the right places or have I not filled them up enough? Do they have the right ingredients in the right balances? Have I done enough and am I doing this right?

~~~~~

It’s a full week later now and another day off for her. Our plans to spend it much like last week’s day get thrown when little brother develops croup and Wednesday morning finds me sitting in a steamy bathroom, trying to clear his airways. We’ve been up since 3am and it’s going to be a long day.

She wakes and pops her head into the bathroom. She knows the drill, knows what it means to see us there and can probably read everything by the look on his face. “I’ll be right back!” she spurts. Seconds later she returns with a stuffed bear. Both of them claim ownership of this bear and we can’t remember anymore so the poor bear becomes the rope in a loud game of tug-of-war. But today, he will make it all better. She holds the bear out and the struggling little boy on my lap smiles. Then he laughs. Right there, in the steamy bathroom, as he struggles for air, she made him laugh. And now they are playing.

~~~~~

The deeper I get into parenting them, the more they begin to take shape as people, not just my little people but real people of the world with real thoughts and passions and dreams that have less and less to do with me, the more I worry about what my hands have done and continue to do. I want to peek inside to see if the seeds of kindness and gratitude, love and creativity, independence and friendship, that I’ve tried to place there are taking root. I want to see not just what their personalities reveal to me today, a muddled mix of them and their development stages and ages that mask their true selves. I want to see what they will blossom into. I’d love nothing more than to, just for a minute, just for a second, catch a glimpse of the future when all of the work of today has yielded their lives so that I can see where I’m going wrong (and, maybe even, where I’m going right).

But I’m starting to recognize that these oven light moments come around fairly often if I’m paying attention.

In the way that she quietly sat with me as I worked and patiently waited as I finished, I saw the healthy buds of focus and support. In the way she happily babbled to me as we drove from place to place, I saw her future of easy conversation and effortless friendships. In the way she eagerly dove into our chores and helped organize our tasks, I saw a world that will be hers thanks to her determination and energy. In the way she made her little brother smile, I saw a future of relationships that are deep and fulfilling. And in the way my heart feels full just moving through the day next to her, I see our future together.

Perhaps the truest sign that you’re doing this parenting thing ok, better than ok, that all of your efforts are working out and your blunders not messing things up too badly, is that you love hanging out with the little person you’re raising.

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