1.19.2015

I'm a crappy adult

Something hit me this month, folks.

2015 means I'm going to be 30. Like, in three months, I'm going to be entering my 30s. I'm not sure what age women are supposed to start lying, but suddenly 30 doesn't feel so young anymore. I think it's because when I was fresh, stupid college kid, I also pictured 30 as my "I'll be a grown up then" year. Like somehow I'd magically feel old enough to handle all the responsibility that comes with being an adult into today's world. But I wouldn't just "handle" it, I'd own it, I'd rock it, with the grace and beauty of a 30-year-old woman (who still looked so young she got carded when ordering drinks).

Let's go ahead and laugh about all that for a good minute.

Done, now? Awesome.

Turns out, growing older, aging - really are all relative - and your age is just a number.

Now I'm not saying this because I'm on the cusp of turning 30 and have a young, spry body and attitude full of vitality, no, I'm saying this because I'm going to be ushering in my 30s and I still don't make my bed or clean up my room.

There, I said it. I'm a crappy adult.

Am I the only one who pictured adulthood much, much different than this? I'm not even talking about the mountain of bills and responsibility, I'm actually talking about me. Me as an adult. Am I the only one who pictured myself being good at being a grown up?

You might be asking yourself "what precisely makes a good adult?"

Well, friends, probably not me. I mean, I'll say this, I've managed to keep not just myself and a small host of animals alive over the last few years, but two small children - so I think we can say I'm at least managing adulthood. I'm just not succeeding at.

When I was a teenager, I hated cleaning my room. I hated hanging my clothes up, making my bed, doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, essentially anything that involved effort that wasn't my friends or boyfriend, I didn't like doing it. Shocking, right?

Well, turns out, growing older does not make you enjoy those chores anymore than you did when you were 15. Who woulda thunk it?

I think I've been living in lalaland for the last 29 years. I mean, Im serious, folks. I kind of always thought I would get married, have some babies and then magically enjoy having a clean room. Or say, magically develop an interest in keeping the kitchen remotely crumb-free, but alas, I apparently missed the train to adulthood.

Turns out when you're a messy teenager you simply grow into a messy adult - possibly messier, because I have far more shoes and dresses than I ever did when I was growing up.

And this probably wouldn't be that big of a deal if my husband and I hadn't decided to spawn two little human beings. Two additional bodies that are simply doubling the clutter and mess and sure as heck have no desire to clean up (geez, wonder who they got that from). It makes it even more difficult because our daughter is finally getting smart enough to realize we're asking her to clean her room and put her boots where they go, but mommy can't seem to remember how to use a hanger or put her boots under the bench like she should. In fact, sometimes mommy leaves her boots on the coffee tables because she's apparently a 16-year-old girl trapped in an almost-30-year-old mother's body.

She hasn't said it yet. She hasn't asked yet why we make her pick up her toys and put things back where they go, yet mommy can't seem to even remotely follow the same guidelines, but it's starting to formulate in her brain. I can see the wheels and gears turning. She's close to discovering mommy is a very crappy adult and is utilizing double standards against her left and right.

And because she's my daughter, she's going to call me on it. And she'll probably do it with one hand planted on her hip and the perfect I'm-sassy-and-you're-going-to-listen-to-me tilt to her head (both of which she learned from mommy as well).

I may not be the most grown-up adult out there, but I've got the whole fiesty, hear-me-roar, I'm woman thing down.

So at least there's that.

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1.10.2015

A letter to myself on my son's second birthday

Well mama, you've done it.

You have somehow successfully kept your rambunctious, teetering more than he's toddling, monster man alive for another year. These 365 days have been filled with a lot of ups and downs - and boy, do I mean a lot - but somehow you and your sweet bundle of bouncing baby boy have made it through mostly unscathed.

Sure, there were some scrapes and bruises, like the time he mini-minotaured his big boy head into your collarbone so hard it left you black and blue, or the time he stopped, dropped and rolled down your basement stairs, leaving his poor head scraped and both of you shook up. But the important thing is you made it.

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You're not the same mama you were two years, before you had your little boy. That was back when you still worried about how you could possibly love another human being as much as you loved your daughter. Remember those days? You’d stay up late at night, fretting about how you would adjust to being a family of four; how you could open your heart enough to these tiny humans; how you would let this tiny baby boy know how much he meant to you while trying to meet the daily demands of being an already mother, wife and career woman.

Look at you, mama. Two years later and now you can’t fathom what your life would be like if you’d never had your son.

And speaking of that – remember how you hoped beyond all hopes that your “he” would be another “she.” You were so scared of parenting a young son; in fact, you still are a little bit, aren’t you? But the moment they laid your beautiful little boy in your arms, nothing else seemed to matter, did it? It didn’t matter what he was, just that you loved him and he needed you.

Try and remember that, mama. He needs you. Your tumbling-two-year-old toddler needs you now and will the rest of his life. When he’s struggling with a homework assignment, going to his first dance or picking the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with, he’s going to need you. Even though he seems like his own little person already, he will always need you – if only for the fact that you are his mother.

I know he doesn’t seem like your little baby anymore. He doesn’t coo – but “oooohs;” he doesn’t have that lopsided grin – but a bright, beaming smile; he doesn’t giggle – but boisterously laughs. I know that it’s scary because it feels like he might be your last baby – although you “know” he isn’t one anymore, but he is mama. He will always, always be your baby. Even once he’s had babies of his own, he’ll still be your baby boy. No one will ever take that way from you.

Remember mama, even though you find yourself longing for the days of sweet little baby toes, tiny baby clothes and even those marathon-nursing sessions where it seemed like your boobs were never actually in your shirt, there was a time when you were wishing for him to be two, when you were wishing for him to start becoming the tiny human he is. And the tiny human he is – is absolutely amazing.

He doesn’t love you like he did when he was born. What was once a familiar, safe love, is now a choice of love. Remember when he was a tiny baby and he’d grin and flail his arms as you came up to him? You used to melt over that teeny weeny smile. Do you know what’s even better than that, mama? When your son runs into the kitchen yelling “Mama, mama, what you doin?” And after listening to your long-winded reply you ask him “Brae, what are you doing?” And he walks up, wraps his arms around your legs, leans and says “lovin mama.”

Yeah, babies may have that intoxicating scent, but look what you have, mama. You have words. You have actions. You have a little boy who is absolutely head over heels for you. And he always will be.

Just know the road is going to be long ahead, but it’s going to be more than worth it. And regardless what the future holds for your family, revel in the amazing things this little boy has brought to your life, the love he has taught you, shown you, made you feel. Remember he brought you these things not because he is your first son or your last “baby,” but because he is Braeburn Abbot and he is every bit of everything wonderful in this world – in fact, he is your world – whether he's two months old or two years old.

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1.02.2015

Thoughts from a Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting in a terribly uncomfortable plastic chair, one of the futuristic-looking ones you know will inevitably be one of the worst things you ever sit down on, listening to a little boy cry and watching another color on a table.

Beside me an army of caffeine-addled mothers engrossed in their smartphone, texting and making arrangements for little Rebekah’s ballet class and Jimmy’s soccer game, all while scrambling to order last minute birthday gifts from Amazon.

There are a few fathers dotting the premises, click-clacking on their laptops, stalking their email, looking for tickets to the Monday night football game and occasionally peering up to give the thumbs up to their children behind the glass.

My daughter has been in gymnastics for two-and-a-half months and I still feel like I’m never going to fit in here.

I still feel like I’m living some weird, alternate reality of what I thought my life would be. And the truth is, my reality is far more beautiful and tragic than I ever could have imagined.

That’s the thing about parenthood. You decide you’re ready for this tiny human being and all the sudden, whether you really are or not, they’re here. And I mean they’re REALLY here. Like, you have 10 tiny fingers and 10 tiny toes with equally tiny nails you’ll be clipping for what feels like the rest of time. And did I mention the tiny teeth? Super small mouths with small teeth and even smaller gaps to brush and floss. When you decide to become a parent, you’re going to spend a lot of time grooming a very wiggly, sometimes-volatile, TINY human being.

When I was younger, I was convinced I’d never get married or have children. It wasn’t that I had anything against the concept; it was simply unappealing to me. I wanted to write novels – I wanted to impact people with my words, all while getting fancy drinks with my fabulous friends and then hopping on a plane and getting lost in Europe somewhere for a while.

But then in college I met my husband and my single-girl status changed. And when faced with the idea of leaving my beloved college town and man behind, I made the first decision that derailed my could-be reality. I stayed in Cleveland and fell in love. I still got some of the fancy drinks with my fabulous friends, but eventually, even that wasn’t enough to keep me there.

All the sudden my nephew was born and I was aching to be near my family. Something magical happens when your sibling has their first offspring. You’re drawn together in this weird way over this screaming little overlord. And so we moved – not to somewhere where I would start my successful authorship, but home. To my home.

And then everything kind of fell in line from there. Fall in love, get married, have a baby, take some family vacations, have another baby and buy a home. The life I once envisioned slowly faded behind me and a sort-of pre-destined rhythm fell into place. I was doing what grown-ups were supposed to do. I was starting a family, fostering a career and creating life.

Having children changed me in ways I’ll never fully encompass. Someone once said having children is like allowing your heart to walk completely outside of your body; truer words have never been spoken. You feel every emotion humanly possible at full volume for these little people and slowly, pieces of you start to wash away, things that seemed so important slowly erode.

And almost five years later, you find yourself sitting in a lime-green room, staring through the glass as your daughter spins around the uneven bars. You hold your breath as she tiptoes across the balance beam and you close your eyes as she tumbles headfirst onto the sproingy floor. Becoming a mother has made me beautifully in-tune with the emotions and thoughts of my children, however; it’s also made my own feel completely abstract.

My aunt passed away shortly before Christmas and suddenly I was flooded with a gush of unfamiliar emotions and thoughts – my own. I wasn’t focused on whether Braeburn was receiving the proper amount of socialization, whether Pearyn was being alienated by our vegan diet during her classroom holiday party – instead, I was feeling my own uncertain thoughts in the pit of my stomach.

What if I didn’t do things right? What if, in my attempt to follow the appropriate path of life, I stepped off somewhere and disrupted everything? What if in trying to live my life the right way, I had lived it wrong for me?

Isn’t it amazing what death does to a person? I’m certain I don’t mourn or process in the healthiest of ways, but then again, how many people do? Losing someone seems to bring out this itch in me, this urge to ensure I’m being true to myself, making the most out of the days I have left, however many there are, but I’m then consumed by overwhelming guilt for these thoughts.

Mothers shouldn’t question these things. Mothers are good and patient and gentle – they’re not confused and scared and jumbled.

Of course having children wasn’t “wrong.” My babies are the two things I’m certain I did right in my life. Just because I didn’t envision them when I was a wreckless 19-year-old college kid doesn’t mean they weren’t part of my destiny. Who says I’m tied to that destiny, anyhow?

Who says we have to be tied to any destiny; who says we have to fit into any mold? I’m a mom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a kickass writer of some sort, it doesn’t mean I can’t still get lost in Europe one day – it just means I have to do a little extra planning, wait a little extra time.  And just because we’ve had children or gotten married or started our careers, doesn’t mean we’re solely those roles; being human means being a culmination of things. How asymmetric would life be if we only let one or two roles define us? I’m not simply a mother, not just a wife and not only an editor, I’m this wonderful mishmash of those things and so, so, so many more.


I just need to do a better job of reminding myself of this. I need to do a better job of being all the things I want to be. We all do, really.

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12.11.2014

Vegan pecan pie cookie (all the pie taste, sans work)

It's December. And it's wonderful because it means I get to bake and bake and bake - unapologetically. Because baking Christmas cookies has been a family tradition since I was a little girl, we've already got a pretty extensive cookie repertoire down. And because all of those cookies are not only utterly delicious, they remind me of the days we piled into my grandmother's kitchen, pressing out the Wise Men's camels and pushing hershey kisses into peanut butter blossoms, there isn't a lot of room to expand on said cookie list.

However this past Thanksgiving, we stumbled upon a cookie that might finally make the coveted list.

The pecan pie cookie.

Seriously, this is the most perfect cookie ever created. I don't know if it's just me, but I've never successfully baked a pecan pie. OK, I think it probably is just me, but still, sometimes you want pie, but you don't want to go to all the work to get said pie. Let's face it, pecan pie, is kind of the drama queen of the dessert world.

Here's the beauty about this little cookie. If you don't want to make your own pie crust, you don't have to, you can use a premade one. If you want to make your own pie crust, you can make it extra buttery, extra flaky, extra vanillay. You can do whatever your heart desires with this little cookie.

Just don't skip the chocolate drizzle. It's necessary - just trust me.


Vegan pecan pie cookies
(Makes two dozen)
For the crust:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
3 sticks vegan butter (we use Earth Balance)
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cup cold water

For the filling:
1/4 cup (or half a stick) of vegan butter, melted
1 cup pecans (halved or chopped)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips for drizzle (don't skip the drizzle!)

Directions:
For the crust, mix together the flours, sugar and salt. Stir in butter, vegetable shortening and cold water. Once blended, divide it into two balls, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes (makes rolling easier).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine vegan butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup and salt. Cook on medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in pecans. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take your pie crust out of the fridge and roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Using a three-inch cookie cutter (I used one with fancy scalloped edges because it's the first three-inch one I actually found), cut out shapes. Combine dough and roll out as necessary, until you have 24 circles. Fold the edges around the tiny crusts, so the pecan filling can "sit" in them.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place crusts on sheet. Spoon filling onto cookie (not too much or it'll run over), just enough to "fill" the spot. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are light golden brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack. 

Once everything is cooled, microwave vegan chocolate chips in a ziplock bag (only took about 30 seconds in our microwave). Cut a tiny tip off the corner of the bag and use this to drizzle over cooled cookies. Allow chocolate drizzle to set (I placed in the fridge for about five minutes).

Take them everywhere and show them off, because not only are they delicious, they're super cute too.

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11.27.2014

The grinch of Thanksgiving

I need to get some things off my chest. 

Some things I'm not so proud of. 

Some things I've been struggling with. 

And some things I'm coming to cope with. 

The last six months have been frustrating, for reasons I can't really find words for right now. I've found myself withdrawn from things I generally love, people I love. I've found myself forcing smiles and forcing happy thoughts. But the truth is, no amount of force is going to make me really mean that smile. No amount of force is going to make me positive. 

I've been selfish. I've been trying to cover up all these messy feelings, and unfortunately, today, of all days, they came pouring out. That's the thing about these emotions; there doesn't seem to be a right way to feel them. If I let myself be jealous, be sad, be unhappy, then I feel like I'm being ungrateful for what I've been given, what I've worked for. But if I don't allow myself to feel these things, then I exhaust myself trying to NOT feel them. Do you know how hard it is to NOT feel something? 

And at the end of the day, I was still bitter. Still upset. Still jealous. Still sad. Regardless of whether or not I allowed myself to show these feelings, they were still there. 

And the truth is, I haven't really found the answer to my problem - I'm not even sure there is one. I know I need to relinquish control, I need to accept that I will end up with exactly what I'm meant to. I believe deep down there is a plan for everyone, and whether or not I understand the one I've been given doesn't mean it's a bad one.

I know all these things. I need to believe these things. And yet, I'm still struggling daily with the little nuances of everyday life. Of being human. Of being flawed. Of having lost. Of not receiving. 

Three months ago we parted ways with close friends, we'd "grown apart." There wasn't a day that went by up until two weeks ago that I hadn't thought about this event. What I said, what I could have said, what I should have said. And then, two weeks ago, I was sitting in my basement with my family, our best friends and their children. And everything was so easy. The kids were bouncing around each other, the men were talking about professional wrestling (I know, I know) and the women were talking about candles or something that smelled good. And it was wonderful. It was seemless. And it hit me. Things shouldn't be so hard. Friendships don't have to be so hard. People can grow and change and can fight and bicker, but at the end of the day, it shouldn't have been that hard. 

And finally, I felt a lightness. I understood why things had to happen and I feel comfortable and at peace with what happened. 

Today someone I love had amazing news. Wonderful news. Jumping-for-joy, eat-the-whole-can-of-whipped-cream, dance-with-no-music, shout-from-the-rooftop news. And while I was overwhelmed with SO much happiness for them, I found myself wallowing in pity for me. Not because they didn't deserve it. Not because I deserved it more. But because I was disappointed. So I cried. I let myself feel whatever I wanted and then I decided to be done with it. I would be happy for them. I AM happy for them. 

And just like I didn't understand three months ago what was happening, I need to just accept that in time this will all make sense too. And regardless, it will all be OK. 

And so today, after being the grinch of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful to find this peace. And I'm thankful for the people in my life who teach me these things, help me accept these things and love me just the same. 

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