The Project of Pregnancy

Shortly after Thanksgiving, 2008, I found out I was pregnant with the baby that would turn out to be, on July 22, 2009, Harrison David. And just two days before Thanksgiving, 2017, I went into labor with the baby that would turn out to be, on November 22, 2017, Wilson Ann. So, you know, for roughly nine years straight, I was pregnant. 

OK, that’s an exaggeration, but when you add in nursing, which I did for at least a year for each baby, I really was growing, feeding, or both-ing babies for over 10 years. When I was trying to get pregnant for the second time, I thought I was one of those rare birds that couldn’t get pregnant while nursing a baby, even though they warn you it can happen. We tried for months and months but didn’t actually have success with Baby No. 2, who would turn out to be, on November 4, 2011, Raegan Leigh, until after I quit breastfeeding her big brother. 

Imagine my surprise, then, on November 4, 2012, RL’s first birthday – a day I was very much still nursing her – when I took a pregnancy test just because I was feeling “funny” and it said “PREGNANT!” Shocked really doesn’t begin to cover it. I legit thought that couldn’t happen for me, but guess I was wrong. I kept up the dual growing/feeding gig until going in for my first OB appointment when my doctor explained that part of why I felt so miserable (beyond the fact that my first three pregnancies all just made me quite, quite sick) was that my body was taking care of the fetus first, the baby on the boob second, and last of all, me, the actual human of said body. So, I weened Raegan and focused on “just” growing the baby that would turn out to be, on July 4, 2013, Lincoln Thomas.

Did you catch that date overlap? Two babies born on the 4 of the month. One girl, one boy. One in July, one in November. Total accident, total alignment, and exactly 20 months apart in age. 

As with Harrison, the trend once again became “can’t get pregnant while nursing” and it wasn’t until after I kicked LT off the boob that I learned Baby No. 4, who would turn out to be, on September 6, 2015, Truman John, was on his way. Ironically he was due on September 4, but like his big sis, he was a stinker and made me wait a couple extra days to meet him. I mean, totally worth it, but going past a due date can be tough. Somehow, though, my pregnancy with Truman was the easiest and the one in which I felt, by far, the most human, so if I had to do it a little bit longer, so be it. I was far less sick than with any of the previous babies (thank goodness since I was chasing those three while growing him); since that helped me see the “other side” that some women experienced, and because we still wanted everyone to have a brother and a sister, we decided to go for one more. 

This time, though, I wasn’t willing to give up nursing because Truman didn’t seem ready yet and we took a “if it’s meant to be, it will be” mentality with the trying for No.5. Luckily for us, my body cooperated and eventually I was, once again, with child. However, it wasn’t until I, once again, confirmed the at-home test at the OB office that I was willing to ween TJ off nursing so I could “just” grow one more babe while trying to take care of the other four and my own self. 

Unlike the two who came early (HD by 12 days and LT by 6) and the two who came late, Wilson came right on time – on her actual due date. My OB joked in the delivery room that if you have enough babies, you eventually will get one right on the dot, and there’s something to that. Of course you also have to take into consideration that I’m one stubborn mother who labored extra long at home just so she could go in after midnight (putting us there on the due date) to give birth and save an extra day in the hospital. Another irony given that WA had to be flown to Omaha for surgery on Day 2 of life and we spent 22 days in the NICU at Children’s Hospital before we could bring her home to her anxiously awaiting siblings. 

So if you can’t tell by their faces, each one unique but clearly connected and related, too, you can look at the numbers and the patterns and see that growing my not-so-little crew was the longest and the bestest project I’ve ever worked on in this life. Of course the project of parenting them will last the rest of my days but those 9 years (or 10+ when you count nursing) were unlike any others.

*Post 42/52 – just 10 to go!

Advertisement

That Baseball Life

Starting in early elementary and all the way through middle school, I played summer softball. I never tried out for a travel team (that also wasn’t really a thing back then like it is now), but instead just played the city rec league with fellow classmates and other girls my age for a couple months each summer. I liked it but it wasn’t never my end all/be all and I eventually gave it up for other sports (cross country) and activities (band) by high school. However, as my group of friends solidified in high school, I found myself hanging out with my best girlfriends and a whole bunch of guy friends who all happened to be baseball players as well. And so began a trend that would continue, well, the rest of my life. 

We spent so much time watching the guys at their Legion ball games and even traveled to watch them play some tournaments. I have never been a fan of watching baseball on TV but there is something great about being there live to see the exciting moments (and getting good snacks and having talk-time in the sometimes long stretches between said exciting parts). We were good fans and Post 12 was a fun team to root for during those years. 

Oddly enough, in college, I ended up once again being really good friends with a group of girls that was equally matched with guy friends who played baseball for Doane. So once again, I found myself parking my butt in the bleachers and on blankets in the grass to watch the Tigers take on their various division opponents. I don’t know that we traveled much/if ever to watch them play, but the baseball guys were our guys. The irony of this is that Ben was supposed to play ball in college but tore both hamstrings the summer before his freshman year, playing baseball, and didn’t get to become part of that team. Maybe if he had, we could have met earlier (or maybe not since we were in choir together for a year and had no clue – lol)! 

As it was, I didn’t have to know Ben for very long to know that he loves baseball and that the Kansas City Royals have long been his favorite team. This was an easy fandom to share with him and over the years I even, sometimes, acquiesced on my rule of not watching baseball on TV. This became especially true in 2015, also known as the year Truman was born, the October the Royals took the World Series crown, AND the one time we had a sports-themed Christmas card photo! I was up nursing a baby every few hours anyway, so staying up to watch nail-biter games with Ben was a fun way to pass the time; plus, by that point, I was a pretty committed Royals fan myself. 

Our family stayed #ForeverRoyal until shortly after Wilson was born when LT went rogue on us and became an Aaron Judge/NY Yankees super fan. While I attended my first ever MLB game while pregnant with Wilson, the kids all got to attend their first one two summers later when the Royals played at home versus the Yankees. Ben’s parents joined us in Kansas City for the game which was full of excitement (including a lost tooth for Raegan) and extra innings for the Royals to eek out the win (poor LT!). 
Though we are still a house divided when it comes to MLB teams, we are Welschies all the way when it come to our own kids. That means that these days, I’m still in the bleachers (okay, more like a bag chair) but now watching as a committed Baseball Mom with three boys who have played city league and two of those three also doing/starting travel ball. It makes for long evenings and wonky meal times, not to mention an absolute ton of scrubbing/laundry, but I love it (not the laundry; that’s for the birds). It is so fun to watch them out on the field, playing a game our whole family loves (the sisters do a good job of tolerating these long nights and get in on plenty of backyard ball sessions with Dad and the boys, too). I don’t always do the best job breathing when one of them is pitching, but I clap and cheer and jump for joy whenever something exciting happens, which is really what makes the baseball life so great – you just never know when one of those moments will occur! 

*Post 37/52

The Bowls and Books of Christmas

Until high school, I don’t remember set holiday traditions in our family. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have them, but they just weren’t on my radar like the routines we adopted in my teens. I was probably too distracted by Santa, snow, and visiting our family at both sets of grandparents to be too wrapped up in the actual details that went into making those holidays magical. 

As I matured, though, two particular Christmas Eve traditions took hold in our world and in my heart: soups and opening one present of our own choosing from under the tree. The latter probably sticks in my brain because of the year my brother got an egg pan (that he asked for!) and all he could do was look at it in disbelief, saying, “I got a pan.” I don’t remember any of my CE gifts in particular because none were quite that funny; the soups, however, are still one of my favorite parts of the holiday, in part because we weren’t afraid to take it over the top with soup production.

Growing up I mostly remember two soups in rotation at our house – potato and chili. As a kid I didn’t care for chili (too spicy for me then) but loved potato soup so much (cheesy, creamy, and so delicious!). When we started the Christmas Eve Soups, it was probably just those two. But then, with time and advancing taste buds, we expanded our soup world and started making not just two soups for our family of four but FOUR soups on one night, because, why not? Ham & Bean, Chicken and Wild Rice, and the Christmas Soup (our name for it based on the colors of tomatoes, spinach, and cannellini beans) all got brought into the mix. I mean, why not, right? Leftovers are great and then each one of us got to pick our favorite. To this day we still make soup on Christmas Eve and it’s the perfect dish to warm you up before our other holiday routines of attending a candlelight church service, opening one gift, or setting out a plate of cookies for Santa. 

Seeing as we still soup it up each Christmas, that tradition is one my own kids will know and hopefully remember for years to come (we make just plain tomato for most of them still). The other holiday tradition that we’ve started in our own house that I know will stand out for them is our Christmas Book Countdown. Also over the top, this is another idea I found on Pinterest in 2013 (thank goodness for the blog to tell me that). That year, for advanced Christmas gifts from relatives, we asked for a collection of Christmas-themed books that totaled 25 in number so the kids could take turns (minus Lincoln who was still an itty bitty baby that winter) unwrapping a book from under the tree on each day of December  with the final one being opened Christmas Day. It was an instant hit and we’ve continued it ever since. The kids will tell you that the strangest thing that ever happened was the two years in a row that they opened Merry Christmas, Curious George! as the final book. Even funnier is when they engineered it being opened for a third year in a row by guessing and trying not to pick it until the very end to keep the streak going!

Now that we have five kids and our Christmas book collection has expanded over the years to a few beyond 25, we have each one of them select five titles, taking turns in doing so. Then I wrap them so they can again take turns each day picking and opening from youngest to oldest. The math on that works out great and keeps things nice and even, and the kids do a good job of remembering whose day it is. 2022 was the first time any of them asked to help with the wrapping, so while they were at school, I did the initial covering (so they couldn’t see what book it was) and then the kids helped fold and tape the edges which was great wrapping practice for them. 

Even though these are simple traditions, they’ve meant a lot to us over the years and we hope to continue them for years and years to come. 

*Post 35/52.

Not There Yet

Next week Wilson turns five, and to be honest, sometimes I forget that we are still in The Tunnel. Long-time readers will remember that this is a phrase, not my own, that refers to the challenge that is parenting children under the age of six. Wilson has grown so much in the last year, physically (seriously, she’s already in the size 6 clothes and on track to be as tall as HD was when he was five) and verbally (thanks to the awesome speech services she’s received from RiteCare here in town), plus she has four big role models to that she copies (for better and for worse), that I can forget how little she still is. And then a morning like this morning comes along and reminds me like a door slammed in my face that we are NOT at the end of this tunnel yet, even though we’ve technically been in it for almost 13.5 years and it seems like we should be through this already, please and thank you.

Admittedly, it’s a rough and weird week. Ben’s been gone for five days which is super out the norm for us even though it did technically happen earlier this year in August as well. But in August we didn’t have school schedules and activity schedules to navigate while he was away, nor did we have the cold germs flirting with half our household which adds a whole extra layer of yuck along with everyone missing him.

This morning wasn’t Wilson’s first meltdown of the week but it was by far the worst (*knocks over a whole forest of trees to keep that statement from biting me in the butt*) and I am sure all of the above listed factors played a role in the struggle. My own stress and sleep deprivation probably didn’t help, but I will mention that I kept my cool for 15-straight minutes of being wailed at (in the form of crying, not fists) and then another 30 minutes of trying to get her to get dressed so she could actually go to school this afternoon, for which she was late for the very first time all year. Her sweet principal met us at the door and helped her off to her classroom and I barely made it back to my car before I lost it.

I cried the whole way back across town because, my goodness, this can be so hard. Even with help (i.e. grandparents on call while Dad is away), the weight of this falls on me and reminds me that we aren’t there yet. The Tunnel still exists, and yes, I know we’re essentially entering a new tunnel of Teenagers once we make it through the Toddler one, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that this shi!t is real and this shi!t is challenging.

And that’s it – that’s all I’ve got. Well, that a reminder that if you know someone parenting an Under Six, send them some love and encouragement because chances are they’ve had a rough moment, if not today than sometime recently, and it never hurts to remind someone that their struggle is real, and so is their love and their effort to keep moving toward the end of that long, dark tunnel.

A PBS Childhood

Growing up when and where I did (rural SoDak in the 80s and 90s) meant we didn’t have many options for television stations. Eventually, in high school, we got a satellite dish which changed things for us, but up until then we literally had 3-5 stations, including the local NBC/CBS/ABC and, my most beloved, PBS.
Although we watched network stations on Saturday mornings for cartoons (because that was really the only time those stations ran such things back in the day), our go-to after school was the children’s programming on PBS, also known to me as South Dakota Public Broadcasting. And it was the best. 

Over the years I remember watching Letter PeopleGhost WriterBill Nye the Science Guy3-2-1 ContactLambchop’s Playhouse, Once Upon a Time, and Sesame Street (obviously not in that order because who knows exactly at what age I viewed each of those).  My absolute, long-standing favorites, though, were Square One TV and Reading Rainbow. I adored both of those shows and couldn’t wait to fly off the school bus each afternoon so I could run into the house in time to catch both 30-minute programs before doing homework and having supper. 

Square One TV was made up of little sketches (think SNL), songs, and a regular mini-series at the end of each episode called “Math Net” that I suppose was a spoof of Drag Net but I have no idea what that even means, beyond it being a crime solving duo which in this case, used the power of math to restore order (pun intended) to the world. Thirty+ years later and I can still remember songs about Archimedes and “The Mathematics of Love” that taught kids to read Roman numerals, and a “Math Net” case that involved the Fibonacci Sequence, so yeah, I’d say it was highly effective programming. 

Reading Rainbow took the cake, though, for making a lasting impression on this reading-obsessed kid. LeVar Burton is the epitome of childhood + TV associations for me because it’s possible I saw every single episode of the show in which he would meet people, share lessons, inspire imaginations, and, of course, introduce us to fantastic children’s books.  I can still sing the entire theme song and I get a swell of nostalgia whenever I see a title I remember from the show like A Chair for My Mother or Angel Child, Dragon Child, and Abiyoyo. A few years ago they did a KickStarter campaign to reboot the show on Netflix and of course I contributed, earning me a shirt that I’ve worn so many times since, my own children will probably associate with their childhoods someday. 

As a mom, I’ve tried to steer my kids on a similar PBS path but their world is quite different than mine and they have what often feels like overwhelming, limitless choices for what they might watch. Of course, most of it isn’t nearly the quality that PBS (still) provides, so I’m always thankful when one of them latches on to any show from NET (Nebraska Educational Telecommunications, now called NPM, Nebraska Public Media). Over the years, those loves have included HD and Dinosaur Train (which is how my blog, The Modern Maiasaura, got it’s name) and WA with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (ironic because I also love DTN but was never a huge Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood fan when I was kid), and allll of them with Curious George which got me through many a cat-nap on the couch during my various pregnancies when I also had toddlers who needed to be entertained while I snoozed. I even called them PBS Naps! 

So even though my own kids will remember quite different and more varied shows when they look back on this same question of favorite Saturday cartoons someday, I’m confident that there will be an intergenerational love for PBS that holds for them just as it does for me. 

*Post 21/52.

Only 18?

To the folks who tell me that I only get 18 summers with my kids, I say, “I know.” I get that such statements are meant to inspire me to be a better mom, to enjoy the most of every single possible fleeting moment because 18 is nothing, a blip that races by in a split second. And while that is true, those 18 years also contain some of the hardest stages and ages of parenting and I’m not just doing this once or even twice, I’m doing this five times over AND consecutively which perhaps explains why I feel so bowled over by this summer in particular.

In case you’ve forgotten, parents of little Littles have been in extreme survival mode for some time now. Our particular family was already In It after adding Baby No.5 and then embarking on a house remodel that would not die (but kind of tried to kill us in the process), and then COVID hit leaving us completely adrift in ways that we still haven’t quite recovered from even though life at this point has totally returned to the hub and the bub of pre-COVD times.

Maybe that’s what makes this summer so rough, too – we haven’t been this busy in years, haven’t gone this many places or seen this many people, haven’t been this social in years. So of course we feel more run down than we have in, well, years.

If you’re keeping up with my English major version of math, that means this summer we’re living in 2022 while making up for the last two years times five kids which is really three summers times five (that’s leaving out the parents who are both having-ish lives of their own, so really, this could/should be seven, not five) which puts us at 15. I’m living 15 summers this summer, so no, I really don’t get to slow down and enjoy every second of every summer with my kids because in a good year, I’m living five summers in one, and in this year, I’m living 15 (or maybe 21) in just three months (that feel forever long and way too freaking short).

But it’s not just me who is feeling this crush, it’s my kids, too. I think we all feel out of sorts without really knowing why and so there have been what feels like more meltdowns and problems than ever before, too. If we’re going with the logic that math makes sense (my poor husband – he’s going to be so insulted by the shade I am throwing at his subject matter throughout this post), it tracks that the along with the heightened activity comes heightened emotion and thereby all of those extra moments of struggle, be it between us and the kids or the kids and each other.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. I’m simply recording it here because it’s what is right now and this has always been my space to make note of such things. Will we survive this rough patch? I think so, but in another moment of honesty, I don’t quite know what will get us there. We’ve still got two-and-a-half weeks until school starts which, again, according to my math, is like is damn near like having three months left of wandering in the land of no set schedule, too many screens and snack requests, weird bedtimes, and sibling bickering (this needs to be a post of lament all its own because holy wow, have they landed in a cranky place as a group). We’ll Little Engine this and keep trying, but please keep in mind that telling someone like me that she only has 18 summers sounds more like a dangerous mountain crossing than a walk in the park to be enjoyed.

Instead I’ve got to keep my focus on the here and now, the glimmers of peace that occasionally pop up in the middle of these endless summer days, like this – all five kids willing to be in a picture together after an hour at the park where we walked to burn off some much needed steam and fussiness that started their (and my) day.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Glimmer moments and a very astute awareness that I can’t force 18 straight years of magical summers (times 5).

Jennifer Rae

Apparently I was never destined to be a Jennifer. My mom had completely different names selected for me but then I was born and my dad was suddenly given the opportunity to bestow me with my forever name and that name was not Rebecca (my mom’s choice and my now sister-in-law’s first name) or Alena (my mom’s other choice that was a mash up of her grandparents’ names, Albert and Lena, that her own dad vetoed), it was Jennifer. Why? 40 years later, my dad has no idea (nor does my mom) as to how it came to be that he did the picking or why he picked it (beyond its popularity at the time). 

Growing up as a Jennifer of the 80s, I had to have my last initial tacked on to my name to distinguish myself from the 27 other Jennifers (another song you must hear – “27 Jennifers” by Mike Doughty) in my class, but I found the way to distinguish myself, eventually, by changing the spelling of my nickname, Jenny, to Jenni. Of course you can’t actually *hear* that difference when you speak my name, so to this day 30+ years later, people still don’t always spell it correctly, but Jenni-with-an-I is me through and through, so much so that Jenny-with-an-Y doesn’t even seem like it could possibly be me when I see it in writing.

While I didn’t love having such a common name growing up, I did like the story behind my middle name, Rae. It is a feminized version of Ray, short for Raymond, which was my maternal grandfather’s middle name (Clifford Raymond). Grandpa Cliff and I shared that middle name with pride and I knew that if/when I had a daughter of my own someday, I too would want to take my dad’s middle name (Thomas Lee) and give it to her with a feminine spelling.

Lucky me, I got to do just that! But even better, I also got to take my “Rae” and incorporate it into our presidentially-named-babies theme and create Raegan (instead of Reagan) Leigh when my first sweet girl was born. I love her name so much because it has pieces of me which includes pieces of my grandpa, but then it also includes pieces of her maternal grandpa, just like I wanted, and the layers and symmetry to that are just my favorite. 

But the poor girl has run into a similar conundrum as her mama because everyone everywhere spells her name wrong and it drives her nuts. While I understand her annoyance, I hope she’ll come to see how special her name is, even if other people can’t remember how she spells it and they assume hers is spelled just like the former president’s which clearly it is not. I trust that, in time, she’ll know the uniqueness that is her own naming story makes the confusion worthwhile. Will she continue the trend of oldest daughter naming the oldest daughter after the maternal grandfather into the next generation? Well, that depends on a whole lot of circumstances, so I guess we’ll see!

*Post 13ish/52. Math is hard.

(Not-So-)Tiny Teachers

As of this writing, my kids are 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. Before this project is done and published, each will have another birthday, making them 13, 11, 9, 7, and 5. For some reason those numbers sound much larger and older than their current ages and I find myself taken aback by the thought of them all being that big. But big they are, as evidenced by our Mother’s Day photo from this year. Harrison is within six-to-twelve months of passing me in height and Wilson still seems on track to beat us all, Ben included! But what I see most when I look at their unique but so obviously related handful of faces are not just the physical changes they are experiencing, but the mental and emotional lessons these (not-so-)tiny teachers of mine continue to give me. 

Harrison: my first teacher of what it means to be a mother. He will always be my guinea pig — the one I am learning with and perhaps making the most mistakes with simply because he hits each milestone first. I am literally forever not really knowing what I’m doing with him as he grows and goes, so to attempt to list all he has taught me would fill 100 books all on its own. But perhaps the greatest lesson he continues to demonstrate to me is how to stay true and loyal to what one enjoys while letting the words, opinions, and shenanigans of others slide right off the back. HD tunes out the noise and inspires me to do the same.

Raegan: my mini-me to the 10th degree, this girl. She reminds me what it means to radiate care and responsibility and how one can do both with ease and grace in so many forms and settings. She keeps me connected to my own childhood passion of reading obsessively and taking great pleasure and pride in doing so. But above all, RL teaches me what it means to be courageous. To take on new challenges and activities, yes, but also to face old fears and worries with a chin held high, a deep breath taken, and a good song to keep the spirit buoyed when it feels low. RL inspires me to be bold and brave through it all. 

Lincoln: my one who is perhaps most unlike me in terms of taking after his dad more than his mom. He is my always moving, always playing, always active guy – the one who can turn any moment into a game or a competition and will pick up any sport and play his heart out while doing it. He has taught me about passion and enthusiasm both in his loyalty to his favorite teams and players as well as with his heart that has bleed baseball for years. LT also has a great passion for his people and he teaches me constantly about how to be a fierce friend and how important moments of connection are. Even though he’s almost always in constant motion, he gives the best squeezes and is a darn good couch cuddler, too. LT inspires me to get out there and DO, to practice, and to play. 

Truman: my one who charms them all. This kid has been working it from the day he was born and I am no exception to the power of his big blond head and giant blue eyes. He teaches me to reconsider, to try again, to be silly and laugh about the word “poop” or “fart” even when I’m not in the mood. He is the one who helps my head and heart understand what it is like to be so little while observing such bigness all around you and both wanting to catch up to that but embodying such youth and tenderness at the same time. He demonstrates juxtaposition with his cries for help and independence, his big hugs and his running out of the room when he doesn’t want to stop or hear “no” one more time, his go-go-go and his need for rest and recovery. TJ inspires me to feel all the feels and to enjoy the heck out of the giggles when they come. 

Wilson: my one I never knew I needed. If I’d had my way, I would have had two boys and two girls and been Done with babies. But that’s not how it went and I decided that maybe I wasn’t done and that maybe we’d get another girl if we tried another time, and oh my goodness, I can’t imagine life any other way even though Wilson was a ball of teachings from the moment she emerged. From First Sight she taught me to rely on prayer more than I ever had in my life, but also modern medicine and doctors, too. Since then she’s taught me to be grateful for the small things that are sometimes the

big things and that there is always time and room for one more “huggy” and “kissy.” WA inspires me to wear what feels good, dance to my own tune, and love, Love, LOVE along the way. 

To my five greatest examples of what it means to grow and be in this world – thank you for teaching and inspiring me. 

*Post 8/52.

Both Things Can Be True

At its heart, this has always been a parenting blog and a personal blog. Both things can be true.

However, as the years have gone by, it has been harder to know what I should share here about my kids. They have their own struggles that equate to stories that I could tell here both for my own remembering and for the connection this provides with other parents and people. But, also, those are their stories, so are they really mine to share at all? I mean, I share a lot of my own shit here but that’s because it is my shit and I’m a grown up making that decision for myself, so that’s pretty different than me telling their sh!t to the world for them.

That said, things still happen in our life that are also both things – their stories as individuals and mine as their parent. Both things can be true. But what does that mean for my writing and how I relate these milestones, lessons, and takeaways? I guess I’m still navigating that, and in true Jenni form, I’m doing so via writing.

We had an incident lately that I want to share here about more than one thing being true but I’ll warn you right now – it’s going to be a little vague because I am trying to do honor my kids’ privacy in sharing this.

I’ll start with documenting, because it is helpful for my own reminding as much as anything, that sometimes my kids get along really well and are each other’s best cheerleaders. With all the bickering I referee on a daily basis, witnessing them cheering each on, being excited/nervous (Glennon calls this “scited” for scared and excited) for one another, and celebrating each others’ accomplishments would warrant a blog post all on its own – it’s that monumental. But within this same vague scenario, we had some individual wins that I want to celebration (word choice intentional – still one of my favorite toddlerisms from HD on his 3rd birthday).

During this particular group activity, two of my kids were offered a chance to split and go with an older group during a breakout session. OK, that’s great. Except that pretty soon it was obvious that it wasn’t and overwhelm on one of their faces was obvious, even from a distance. But you know what said child did? Spoke to the group leader, said they needed to join the other group, and then proceeded to walk themselves to that group instead, even though there was obvious self-imposed shame and embarrassment happening. It’s possible that said child’s mother called out, “It’s OK that you don’t know!” as they walked by – just saying.

The other child stayed with the older group and I was impressed by that too because I knew a lot of information that was going over their head was being discussed. Just like recognizing limits and honoring them can be brave, so too can be the act of sticking with something and trying it, even when you don’t know what’s going on. Both things can be true.

On the way home, I told them both how proud I was of these very different, very brave choices. And when the one who stayed and tried later told me that they thought my comment to their sibling meant I thought they should have left, too, I got right down at eye level and said, “I understand how you could have heard it that way. I hope you also heard what I said to you about your choice.” And then I thanked that child for telling me because that too was brave.

So this is me, recording (for myself and others and for my parenting self and other parents) that sometimes shit goes really right even when it is going wrong in the situation. Both things can be true. And sometimes we get a glimmer that our kids are hearing us and learning from us and, my God, do we need to honor such times because this is both the best and the hardest job.

Both things can be true.

A little trend happening here with photos that aren’t connected to the post except that you do get to see my five beautifully brave babies in it.

Both/And, Not Either/Or

To share this means to put myself out there for all to see and judge. Not to share this means to hide behind passing privilege and if I’ve learned one thing in the last year, it is that my capacity for inauthenticity is extremely low, especially if that inauthentic way comes from myself.

The gist is this: after semi-, quietly, internally questioning myself over the last 20 years, I’ve opened up my heart, my mind, and my life to the queerness that is part of me. Queer how? I don’t find just one gender attractive. Call that bi or pan or whatever you like because I don’t mean to use labels to discriminate against others; I think that love is love and the person matters far more than the gender attached to them, assuming, that is, that they ascribe to a gender in the first place.

So what does this change, you wonder? Nothing. And everything. But let me start with the nothing. I know the first question for most will be – what about your marriage? My marriage is good. My marriage is sound. Will it last forever? Well, I can’t promise that any more than any other one person in a couple can in this life, but the short of it is that Ben was the first person beyond myself that I shared this with and it didn’t change a single thing for him or how he sees me, so I don’t see why it should change a single thing for us or how I see him. He’s been my person since we met at that party at a pond 17 years ago and as long as we continue to love and support each other, he’ll be my person through all the rest of it, too.

What I also hope is nothing is how the majority of other people will see/hear/respond to this and by “this” I mean me. I’m not a different person than the one you knew previously to reading this. I’m just sharing with you the more real and honest, the more open version of me. I’m giving more language to my understanding and acceptance of myself – that’s really it.

The reason I say “everything” changes is because of my motivation for sharing this in the first place – my kids. We have always been a Love is Love house and have talked about how females can love and marry other females and the same with males who love males. But we’ve never talked about the fact that some people can see themselves with both/and, not just either/or. And because I want my kids to be their most authentic selves and love whoever the flipdiddle they want to as they grow, I need to be transparent about myself as an example of that very principle. And I can’t tell them unless I’m also willing to tell the world at large, so no more passing privilege for me in which I stay quiet simply because I am a woman married to a man and therefore not questioned or judged by our heteronormative society for that marriage/attraction.

So the second gist is this: I am a woman who does not identify as straight but who is married to a man and together we are raising humans to love humans, in whatever form that takes (which means giving voice and pride to my own self along the way, too).

Does it scare me to post this publicly? Absolutely. But my hope is that in doing this, in sharing this most vulnerable side of myself, I’ll be able to show others that it really is OK to be who are you, however that presents. And I’ll be able to share eventually with my own children as they grow and get to know themselves that we really do mean it when we say: Love who you love. Find attractive who and what you find attractive in this world. Drop the shame for doing so. Show the world your real self; this is how we heal and live whole, healthy lives.

If you’re here for that (and by “that” I mean me) with love and support, great; please stay! If you’re bringing shame, lectures, or disgust to the table, kindly move along. While these words are worth sharing, who I am simply isn’t up for discussion or opinion.

So here’s to more moments of honesty and vulnerability, to moving through the world with more grace for others but also ourselves. And here’s to creating a better, more loving and accepting society as we do so.