Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Country Girl Turned City Mom

I think every mom wants to give her child the best growing up experience possible.  Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what that means.  Part of that has included reflecting on my own childhood and the treasures that made it special--that is to say, the series of positive learning moments that shaped me into the adult I have become.  One night, I had a deep discussion with Chad about the thoughts spinning around in my head, and my heart was kind of sad when I was struck with a huge realization:  Kaden can't have the childhood I had.

I was not raised as a farm girl, as my dad is not a farmer, but I was definitely raised as a country girl.  There is a distinct difference between the two, and I in no way want to come across as a poser by giving a false impression of my childhood and adolescence.  Having said that, there is a certain degree of childhood freedom that one obtains from growing up surrounded by fields of wheat, corn, and potatoes, instead of next-door neighbors, regardless of whether or not your dad's job description includes driving a combine (something my dad definitely knew how to do, even if it wasn't his official profession).

And that's where my heart starts to ache for Kaden, just a little bit.  Some of my best memories of my childhood involve me being completely unchaperoned for hours at a time, whilst I rode my bicycle over miles of dirt roads; collected pollywogs from ditches in mason jars; and watched dust devils whirl, listening to the hum of the wind that constantly raged in Moses Lake, Washington.

Knowing Kaden is going to grow up a city kid has left me with questions . . .  

For example, how is he going to learn to swim, without going to Lybbert's Pond every summer?  Don't get me wrong . . . I took swimming lessons in a public pool of the chlorinated variety, but I don't have fond memories of those.  What I remember from my swimming instruction at McCosh Park is an obese, red-headed woman screaming at me and  my peers, trying to get us to float with our faces in the water, while she recited some kind of rhyme about us pretending to be starfish.  I was a sensitive child.  I didn't respond well to her teaching style.  That's why I spent most of the lessons clinging to the side of the pool in pure fear.  My memories of Lybbert's Pond are a bit friendlier:  Basking in the sun while floating on a wooden raft (the same one my friend Callie taught me to dive from when we were in Junior High), belly flopping off the notorious rope swing, and watching my mom and Brenda Goodrich back float together, laughing.

How is he going to learn to be independent and responsible, without raising sheep for 4-H?  Sure, I only did this for a couple of years, but getting up at 5 a.m. to feed those suckers?  That's the groundwork for responsibility, folks!  I just don't know if a golden retriever that sleeps in the house can accomplish the same thing . . . just sayin'.

How is he going to know where our food comes from?  Chad and I watched an episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution once, where an entire class full of elementary school kids didn't know what a potato was.  A POTATO, people!  They knew what a french fry was, but they had not an inkling of the reality that one came from the other.  "How preposterous!"  I exclaimed.  But now . . . I'm starting to wonder.  Sure, Kaden will know what a potato is . . . but will he know where it comes from?  Or will he think it grows in one of the shiny, labeled plastic sacks that we buy at the grocery store?

And how is Kaden going to learn to bake without Bonnie Byington teaching him to level ingredients?  She was my first cooking teacher, other than my mom and grandmas.  Brenda Goodrich was my second.  We all know that a cooking teacher other than a mom is essential, and I had the cream of the crop.  Even though I sabotaged her experiment regarding whether a made from scratch or store-bought pancake mix would taste better (by pouring pickle juice into the store-bought batter--with the assistance of her two granddaughters . . . Poor Sister Byington).     

Don't get me wrong.  I am in no way suggesting I have a desire to relocate to Smallville, USA.  I kind of always knew I would live in a bigger place someday.  I happen to be quite content five minutes from a mall.  From a museum.  From a grocery store that sells fancy, shmancy foodie-items that make me feel like a gourmet chef.  The sad truth is that the world has changed, even in the short time it took me to grow up, and it's likely that even if we lived in a tiny speck of a town on the eastern side of the mountains in Washington State, Kaden wouldn't have the exact same childhood I did.  I think that's where most of the sadness comes from--knowing there is so much more to fear in the world today. 

And so I take him to countless parks.  I push him in the jogging stroller on greenways, where for a minute or two we feel like we're all alone in the woods.

I take him to the pool in our apartment complex and watch him splash like a fish in the chlorine-scented abyss, his head bobbing above water, his arms banded with polka-dotted water wings.

I sing, "Clean up! Clean up! Everybody every where!  Clean up!  Clean up!  Everybody do their share!" while he helps me put away his toy trucks, his plastic fruit, his mountains of picture books.  I take a deep breath and try to be patient while he insists on putting his shoes on all by himself, even though they end up on the wrong feet half of the time.  His exclamation of, "I DID IT!" making me think he is learning independence, a little at a time.

I take Kaden to the farmer's market and point out all of the delectable treats we get to enjoy because someone grows them for us to buy.

I let him stand on a five gallon bucket in my kitchen to watch while I sift the whole-wheat flour to make chocolate-chip banana muffins.

And I take him to do things that I didn't get to do as much of as a kid, because I lived in a different place:

We go to an art festival downtown and look at sculptures, pottery, photographs, and paintings.

We go to the science museum and look up at the skeleton of a whale. 

We go to story time and dance while Mr. Eric plays his crazy songs on the guitar.  The songs he writes just for the tiny visitors of the Cameron Village Library.

We go to the beach and listen to the waves crashing against the shore.

And suddenly, my heart doesn't feel quite as sad, even though I still wish we lived in a safer, simpler world, where I could trust strangers just a little bit more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Weekend

What a great Father's Day weekend we had.  The weather here in North Carolina has been especially beautiful lately.  Usually by mid June I am hibernating in some dark, air-conditioned corner, trying to forget the sweltering humidity outside.  This year has been different.  We always have a beautiful spring, but this has been an especially long one, and I am loving it!

We went to Kinston to spend the weekend, so we could celebrate Father's Day with family.  On Saturday we went out to eat Indian food in Greenville for a belated celebration of Chad's 30th birthday.  (Yes, I did say 30th!)  The food was super yummy and we had a great time laughing and being together as a family.  Nana and Papa were even adventurous enough to try Indian cuisine, and they both said they surprisingly liked it.  (Although, Papa did keep wondering aloud why we couldn't just go to Chili's.)  The culminating moment of the birthday celebration was definitely devouring Joy's homemade carrot cake, which is sinfully delicious.  I think she should open a bakery that only serves carrot cake.  I know it would be a huge hit.     

Sunday morning we went to church, and Chad went to nursery with Kaden (even though it was Father's Day) so I could go to Relief Society, which was a real treat for me.  Kaden usually screams unless I go to nursery with him, so it was pretty awesome.

Then we came home and had a fabulous steak dinner to honor all of the fathers present.  And we had some more carrot cake. 

I got to talk with my grandpa and dad on the phone, since they live too far away for me to wish them a happy Father's Day in person.

Gigi entertained Kaden by letting him help her water the flowers outside, while we packed.  What started out as watering the flowers, ended up as watering Kaden.  He had the best time running through the spray from the garden hose:

We got Kaden all dried off and into some warm PJ's, and then we hit the road.  Just outside of Snow Hill we almost hit a deer, at which point we realized Kaden's car seat wasn't buckled in and felt like terrible parents.  Seriously.  After Chad swerved to miss the deer, we turned around to check on him, and he was completely sideways, staring at us with this look that seemed to say, "What's going on here, guys?"  Luckily, we didn't hit the deer (thanks to Chad's mad driving skills), so disaster was averted.  We pulled over, fixed the car seat issue, and felt so grateful we were all OK.

Chad and I have talked many times about what great dads we are blessed with, and we talked about that again on our car trip home Sunday night.  Our dads are very different, but they are both wonderful fathers.  I am so thankful for my dad and the influence for good he has been in my life.  Likewise, I am thankful for my father-in-law and the wonderful man he is.  I know it is because of his dad's example, that Chad is such an amazing daddy to our little boy.  Here are Chad and Kaden together on Father's Day: (Kaden is wearing a Sunday outfit that Chad wore as a little boy.  I'm sentimental, so I think that's pretty much the cutest thing ever.)     

I'm so glad we have a day to honor the wonderful fathers in our lives.  In a world where family values seem to be deteriorating, it's so nice to honor the men who live up to the definition of dad. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Traumatizing Your Toddler, 101

Today, Kaden and I met Chad for lunch in North Raleigh.  I think we were trying to compensate for the disaster of yesterday, when I traumatized him.  Here's a sampling of one of our morning conversations:

Me:  "OK, Kaden, let's get you dressed.  We're going to go to the park, and then we're going to the store, and then we get to have lunch with Daddy!"

Kaden:  "Daaaa-eeee!"

Me:  "That's right!  Do you want to have lunch with Daddy?"

Kaden:  "Yup."

Me:  "OK.  Say, First Park."

Kaden:  "Firs Pawk."

Me:  "Second Store."

Kaden:  "Stow."

Me:  "Third Daddy!"

Kaden:  "Daaaa-eeee!"

We had similar conversations all morning.  It's how we avoided a meltdown when leaving the park (Me:  "Remember?  We're going to the store, and then we get to see Daddy!"), it's how I consoled him when I buckled him into his car seat an extra time, when the first store didn't have what we needed,  and it's why he was waiting at the door after we got home from Target, anxiously watching the door knob, waiting for Chad to walk inside for leftover roast and mashed potatoes.  Then Chad called, and it turns out he couldn't come home after all.  Devastation.  Kaden handled the news surprisingly well, but when he went down for his nap, he kept saying, "Daaa-ee, Daaa-ee," in the saddest voice imaginable.  So I told him, "It's OK.  Daddy, wanted to come home, but he couldn't.  But when he comes home from work we can go to the BEACH!  Won't that be fun?!"  Kaden thinks the swimming pool in our apartment complex is the beach, which I don't really get, since there is no sand, nor are there waves, and he has experienced both.  Anyway, my promise of the beach appeased him, and he lay down and cuddled his stuffed elephant, with a whisper of "Beach, wan go beach!"

When Chad came home, Kaden screamed, "BEACH!" as soon as he saw him.  So, we put him in his shark swim trunks and polka dot water wings,  and headed to the pool.  And the gate was locked.  Devastation number two.  We felt so bad.  It was clear Kaden had no idea what was going on.  All he knew was he could see the pool, and we weren't opening the gate so he could go jump in.  It was heart wrenching. 

We quickly promised we would do something else fun instead, and so we drove to Lake Johnson to let him feed the ducks.  We let him stay in his swimming suit, since it wasn't worth the battle to change his clothes. 

This turned out to be very creepy.  Usually we go feed the ducks at a park in Cary.  It turns out the ducks and geese of Lake Johnson are a bit more aggressive . . . and terrifying.  I think so at least.  Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds?  Well, I have.  One piece of bread was tossed to a single bird and then next thing you knew, we were being swarmed. 

Here's a video of our encounter:

Look at the proximity of that goose to my son.  And it's bigger than he is! 

 Kaden wasn't sure what to think.
 This is after I moved Kaden and myself from the "bread circle."  That goose was just getting too close for comfort.  I was picturing us as a feature on the nightly news.  I could literally read tomorrow's headlines in my mind:  "Idiotic Parents Risk Toddler's Safety in Local Park.  Parental Rights Now in Question."

 Chad, taking it all in stride, while I freak out.
 Kaden, explaining what he is seeing.  I agree, Kaden, totally and completely creepy!

 Well, maybe a little bit funny, too.

Anyway, today, we took him to Qdoba for the early bird special.  He got to eat an entire side of black beans.  Success.   

Also, here's  a video of Kaden on the way home from Lake Johnson, saying one of our favorite lines.  We say this all the time lately, whenever we're getting ready to go somewhere or do something.  It's stolen from this moment in Ratatouille, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite Pixar movies. 

I think Kaden's rendition is, in a word, awesome.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Southern Baby Boys . . .

Look different in their Sunday best than baby boys on the west coast.  Kaden, being a hybrid of two cultures, can rock both looks--a sweater vest and tie is his nod to his North West roots, while a smocked John-John is his way of embracing our current ties to the South.  Honestly, I love both styles, even though I know not everyone feels the same way (I do, however, draw the line somewhere.  The puffy pants are an absolute no).  Sadly, Chad (who claims I am more Southern than he is, despite the state of my birth) has deemed that this is Kaden's last John-John.  We shall see . . .

I wanted to get some portraits of Kaden in quintessential Southern dress, so we stopped on our last road trip to Kinston and snapped these of him in some wild flowers that were growing along the freeway.  Yes, wildflowers like this grow along the freeways where I live.  It's a rough life, but somebody's got to live it.

What do you think about baby boys' dress clothes?  What should a baby boy wear when he needs to look his most handsome?


I just finished the most wonderful book.

I had seen this video before, and when I heard Stephanie Nielson had written a memoir, I was interested in reading her story.   

Heaven is Here was deeply moving.  I laughed.  I cried.  I learned a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be, particularly the kind of mother I want to be. 

Something she writes in the epilogue particularly struck me:

"I know, now, without a doubt that the true source of happiness, self-worth, and authentic beauty doesn't come from the outside.  Women are constantly persuaded to want something unachievable, to look younger or thinner and above all to fit in because being different is too painful and embarrassing.  I have accepted myself in a world that does not accept me, because I have learned--and more than any of the lessons of my accident, this is the one I wish I could teach everybody--that our hearts matter most.  Your heart matters most, so be gentler and more patient with yourself, and their hearts matter most, too, so be kinder and more compassionate to others.  It's a beautiful heart, not a perfect body, that leads to a beautiful life."

Here's to being more gentle, patient, kind, and compassionate.

You should go read it.  Really.

Friday, June 01, 2012


Dear Next Door Neighbors,

I wonder if you might consider moving your headboard a few more inches from the wall.  Or, if it's not too much trouble, perhaps you could move your bed to the other side of the room.  If that's not possible, perhaps save your romantic rumpus for a normal time of day.


One Who is Tired of Being Awoken in the Middle of the Night and in the Wee Hours of the Morning

Did I mention I'm ready to buy a house???
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