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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Grown-Up Things

There is a lady who lives downstairs and every time I see her outside, she looks like she's coming from a magazine photo shoot. She has sleek brown hair and dresses very nicely. All of the time. Even on weekends when she's in leggings and a sweatshirt, she looks put together and classy.

Inevitably, when she's going to work or returning home in her professional ensemble, I am out chasing after Mal. Maybe I've put make-up on by 5:30 PM, maybe I haven't. My hair NEVER looks that shiny and board straight, even if I use the straightener (which I've done exactly twice since Mal was born), even though my hair IS board straight... because in the Austin humidity, it manages to be both straight AND wiry and kind of foofy.

It almost reminds me of a description of Fleur Delacour from "Harry Potter," where her light dims the people around her (except for on her wedding day <3 ). Like it could be a commercial for shampoo or some kind of anti-depression drug where I'm the before and this breezy lady is the after.

I'm only halfway serious about this. It doesn't make me feel "less" or anything. I do comfort myself in the idea that this woman has only a six-year-old stepdaughter who visits every other weekend and while that's a whole thing all to itself and one I'd rather not do, it's still not 24/7 kid need, amirite? Well, plus we're not in competition. I doubt she's thinking, "Good lord, old lady, give up much?" Or maybe she is. Fortunately, I don't care.

I point this out because it reminds me of something else.

For most of my life, I've been "poor" or, at the best, on the lower level of middle class. It's always been apparent, not just to me, but to others, too.

When I was in junior high, we saved up and I finally got a Coke shirt. I wore the that shirt a *lot* because I loved it and I loved how it looked. One girl who sat behind me in English (and who wore Guess jeans every day) said, "You don't like that shirt, do you? I can tell because you never wear it." Clearly, since I remember those words 30 years later, they stuck. I thought about that every time I wore the shirt (though I have pictures of myself wearing it well into high school, so maybe once I got away from her, I wasn't as self-conscious).

Later, when I was in college and my sister was still in high school, we were out on a Saturday and I wanted to get a picture of Van Buren from the bridge that went over the Arkansas River, We had parked my car at Sonic, I think, and were walking out on the thin pedestrian strip (if there is one; maybe what we were doing was illegal) as cars zoomed past us. At some point, we realized we were both wearing our old, beloved, beaten-up Swatch jackets. We'd had them for years. Something about our trying to walk to the middle of a busy highway bridge in faded old coats while people honked at us made us laugh. We started yelling, "We're poor!" at every car that passed. It made sense at the time.

It's interesting... I don't think I ever remember feeling too "less than" in Las Vegas. That was the first place I lived where most people didn't seem to give a rip how you were dressed. When I moved to Texas, it wasn't that anyone made me feel like I wasn't as shiny as everyone else, but I could tell. I have one of the cutest pictures of Daphne sitting on a hand chair outside of Spencers at the mall (when that used to be a thing in Sherman), and at the time, all I could think was that we were both dressed straight outta Goodwill, and I hated it.

So, fast forward to now... Now, I'm firmly entrenched in the middle class. I could afford nice clothes, jewelry (I have some, but it's mostly Mal's playstuff now; I hardly ever wear any of it, and most of it is pretty old and tarnished), and other things to clean up my act. But I don't. I don't appear any better off than I did when I was a kid, but apparently this isn't a priority to me.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately, as my mother and I were discussing recently the fact that I've never had a "grown-up" set of matching living room furniture. My first apartment was furnished, then straight out of college, I bought a patio set for my living room. I loved being able to swing in my couch! After that, the local newspaper or Craigslist has been my go-to for furniture, and now we have a couch that used to belong to James' grandma.

Every house I've ever lived in, except maybe for the first time we lived in our house in Las Vegas, has looked kind of like a college kid's home because I get the bare minimum I need to survive and since that works, I'm never in any hurry to "upgrade" it. We have a king-sized bed, upsized when we moved and realized Mal would be with us for a while. But we have no head board; nothing but a frame to keep it off of the ground. You've seen my duct-tape job on the Ikea chest we got from some friends, and then a couple of weeks ago, I got a blue chest (real wood!) for free from the Buy Nothing South Austin group I'm in on Facebook. Those things don't match, but I have an answer for that!

The other day, I was walking out to the mailbox and there was a beautiful captain's chair sitting out by the dumpster. Wood with blue cushions. Heavy. Substantial. Also reeking of cigarette smoke. I carried it up to the apartment, put it on the patio, dusted it, Febreezed it, and it's almost aired out enough to put in our bedroom where, voila!, it will bring everything together. Right?

See? I'm a 43-year-old grown-ass woman who got a random chair from the dumpster area of our apartment complex.

I don't think it matters how much money my husband (or I) makes. I don't know that we'll ever have a living room "suite." Or a custom-made "corner curio cabinet" that we paid someone $6000 to make. (Yes, I know someone who did this... to each his own.)

I like everyone else's pictures on Facebook, where their kids are dressed for prom or first day of school and they're standing in front of a fireplace and there are legit pieces of furniture in the shot, and, you know, nice drapes and whatnot. I would totally move into a furnished place like that; I just don't do it myself.

The other day, I was getting excited thinking about a house we'll eventually buy, and I looked on (didn't realize there was a store here in Austin, but will definitely go check it out soon!). Love their stuff, and how customizable it is. But, dang it, it's $18 a square! Will I ever get over being so cheap that I think, "Well, it's totally worth that. Let's have fun in each room!"?

Which reminds me... James is totally on the same page as I am. We were talking the other day about the fact that some of our towels look a little sad. But they dry stuff off, which means they work. So we don't *need* new ones. I'm glad he's not concerned with keeping up any kind of appearances. I don't think we would have worked very well together if that were the case.

So, is this a function of not having a lot growing up so I don't feel like I need it? (Incidentally, my parents have always had matching living room furniture... that they kept until it wore out, so we're talking four sets my entire life.) Or am I just lazy? I don't know. But when we get our house, I absolutely do want to get a 1980s dinette set with chairs on casters. Guess I need to keep an eye out on the vintage shops...

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Weight of Responsibility

Mal can descend stairs, but he usually prefers for me to carry him. If he's doing it on his own, he'll get down on all fours and put his legs over the side of the steps first, then go down each step backwards until he gets to the bottom. He's learned that on carpeted stairs, he can kind of plank and get down pretty quickly.

If I'm carrying him, he'll usually go down one or two stairs, then stand up and step off of the stair into my arms. I've sometimes thought, "What if I weren't ready? He'd fall!" but secured myself with the idea that he's not going to step off into nothingness; he knows I will get him.

Well, today, he made that decision poorly at the playground at Phil's Ice House on Burnet Road. Yes, I saw that the signs said the playground was designed for 5-12-year-olds. That's why I was right there with him the whole time. He was a lot more confident on the bouncy bridge than I was, but I always try to hang back and let him try, just like I did with Daphne. Even when it scared me a lot.

So, he'd climbed up and across the bridge to a place where there were two covered slides. I stood back a bit, trying to see which slide he'd choose. He ended up coming back down to where there were bars a bigger kid could climb down. Not him, though. The closest bar to the deck where he was standing was a good 18 inches away. Still, he looked at it and stepped one foot off of the ledge. I expected him to grab something or have some plan, but it quickly became apparent that he'd just seen me and stepped, expecting everything to turn out okay.

I reached out to grab him and caught onto him briefly, but I was on the wrong side of the bars. He flattened out on them, then continued his fall, thankfully landing flat (no arm or head taking the brunt), and scraping up the left side of his face on the mulch. He started to cry, and I immediately scooped him up and held him to me, so he didn't cry much. He was shaking like a leaf, and his heart was racing. I sat there, legs splayed awkwardly, until I had to move. When he felt me moving, he clung even tighter. I managed to grab hold of the offending bars and stand, still cradling his head to my chest, and we sent to sit down.

He has no bruises (yet), and wasn't badly hurt, just scratched up on the cheek. He fell asleep on the way home and is still napping it off. I'd actually given him Infant Tylenol earlier in the day because he's teething or something spectacularly awful because he just roared and cried all morning. (Actually, he cried a lot more about not being able to use the computer as we were leaving the house, or about the ice cream passing beneath his nose to Daphne before he got a bite than he did about falling four feet into the wood chips.)

Very often, I am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of time this little monkey man requires of me. It's like the whole being pecked to death by a duck thing. But this today made me once again keenly aware that I am pretty much his whole world. It's not just the little stuff. He trusts me. He trusts that I will be there for him. He is starting to trust that the world is a safe place as long as I'm around. And that's what I want for him... But I also want him to figure out gravity and heat and sharp knives pretty quickly and without having to learn the hard way on every single count.

May I always be up to this task, and may God continue to give me supernatural strength and endurance to keep up with my charge, because I know that under my own steam, I would have passed out months and months ago. What an exhausting and largely unexpected blessing. How I love this sweet, jacked-up face.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ponderings at the PO

Yesterday, I was sitting on the concrete at the postal house for our apartment complex while Mal tried confidently to open several mailboxes with our van key.

First of all, he knows which mail box is ours. He runs right up to it as soon as we get down the hill. Secondly, I hand him the key ring with the correct key in position, and without fail, he looks around until he finds the van key and tries that. Thirdly, he gets angry when I finally "help" him by putting the correct key in.

So I was giving him time to try out his theory on as many of the other boxes as he wanted. I'm getting over being sick, and feeling better yesterday was great, but it also allowed me to truly realize how exhausted I am. I didn't mind at all taking a seat and letting him have fun. We usually spend fifteen minutes or so down and the mail house, anyway. More, if lots of people come to check mail. Mal's like the welcome wagon down there.

As I was looking into the woods beside the post boxes, I considered my daughter, a quarter mile away, in her room, possibly still asleep, though I'd awakened her as she requested earlier in the day. And it hit me: Mal will not remember that we used to spend almost an hour a day walking down to the mailbox, looking at dogs, trying to learn not to touch cars that don't belong to us, happily opening empty parcel boxes that have already been unlocked and playing with the spring in the door.

He won't remember the hours I spend sitting in his floor reading to him, playing the air organ, making up silly games, generating the kinds of noises that usually have Daphne closing her door so she doesn't have to try to listen to her music over our nonsense.

He will have no recollection that he cracked open an egg yesterday, and it got all over the counter, so I put the mixing bowl under the lip of the counter and scooped it in; or that I let him try again, and managed to shove the shell over the bowl just as the egg spilled out that time. Or that I was trying to rush him out the door to get my meds because I could not breathe, just as he grabbed the coffee decanter and spilled (fortunately cold) coffee all down his front, and over the counter, cabinet doors, and floor. OR that I was trying to do something he wanted to and hadn't realized he'd shaken my drink, so it exploded all over his bedroom floor when I tried to catch a quick gulp before we did his thing. Or that, unlike many many other times, I actually remained calm and in good humor for each of those incidents, cleaning quickly and moving on without drama.

When Mal's Daphne's age, he might not know that I used to sit in the car with him for five or ten minutes each time before we went anywhere, just to let him play around in the car and decide for himself to get into the car seat. Daphne doesn't remember it. I could tell her, but it wouldn't matter to her today.

So why do I do it?

Why do I kiss Mal and tell him I love him every time he wakes me up because he wants to nurse? Why do I stop and let him take his time even when I'm cold or I really want to sit down or I genuinely have to go to the bathroom? Why do I let him try things that stress me out and make more work for myself? Why do I try any harder than I absolutely have to to keep him alive and functional?

The most simple answer is that I love my kids and genuinely enjoy being around them. I can't think of a way I'd rather spend my time... well, usually, anyway.

But beyond that, I think it's because I want to lay a foundation for them that the world is an interesting place, and that the way that they are in that world is good. Thinking about it over the long term, I'm not always the best at this. I want my kids to grow up believing that they're exactly who they're supposed to be, and that it's a delightful thing. I know I've come short on many occasions. But I hope that's their foundation.

Also, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to hoping that it will have a long-term payoff in good relationships with both of them as they grow up and become whoever it is they're supposed to be. That'd be great. Even if neither of them remembers how exhausted I was and just assume that I've always had the life of leisure they'll notice when they're older and I don't have to be quite as hands-on.

Will Mal remember this?

Probably about as much as D remembers this (which is to say not at all).

Monday, January 11, 2016

Our weekend

Spoiler alert: unless you enjoy discussing bodily fluids and the like, you might want to take a pass on this one.

Hello, everyone. How are you? This is a picture of my son and me from Friday.

See how he's cuddling on the couch with me? He doesn't ever do that. In case the face doesn't give it away, he wasn't feeling well. Neither was I.

This weekend, our whole family pretty much died. Too dramatic? I don't think so.

There's a little "blessing" about living in Austin called "cedar fever." It's actually an allergic reaction to the juniper ashei, also known as mountain cedar. The pollen is spiky (on a microscopic level) and can cause inflammation even in people without allergies. Well, most of us in this house have allergies, too, so we're having a lot of fun with the spike in levels that just hit.

D caught it first and has been struggling with it the longest. This weekend, she was spitting up blood. Fun. Good, fun times. She's been drinking a lot of chocolate milk and tea, and even consented to a dose of Flonase. It's a work-in-progress.

Mal started getting it next, followed quickly by me. His actually started as congestion and drainage due to teeth-cutting. In the past three weeks, he's gotten both of his top molars and at least one of his top eye teeth; the other one might be coming in, but he doesn't let me look in his mouth very much.

He's had a hard time sleeping, because he'll get choked on his drainage and cough and reposition... and then want to nurse. We're talking every fifteen minutes or so, awake or sleeping, actually. I'm pretty worn out and sensitive in the chestral regions.

Then, I started... sneezing at first, and literally blowing through all of our handkerchiefs (repurposed wipes James' mom made) in one day. I've gone through one roll of toilet paper since then. After the two days of sneezing, it became coughing. Coughing to the point of gagging and almost passing out. In the meantime, I've taken Claritin, Flonase, and bronchodilator pills every day.

This morning was the first time I've ever had asthma symptoms so awful that I couldn't do something with my kid that he wanted to do (all the way back to when Daphne was a baby; it never stopped me playing with her). He wanted to "ride the pony" by sitting on my hips whilst I lay in the floor. But I felt like I was going to suffocate and after one round of bouncing him, I had to get up. I hated it.

(Note: before you tell me I need to see a doctor, let me explain something: Every doctor I've seen gives me crap about refilling a rescue inhaler. They say I need to manage my asthma better so that I don't have to use the rescue inhaler, which they say should last more than a year and which I tend to go through in about three months when it's bad like this. A maintenance inhaler is $500 a month without insurance, and more than $300 WITH insurance. I'm not dying. I'm bothered and inconvenienced and my back hurts and it ticks me off, but I'm not dying. I can't spend $500 a month on a maintenance inhaler. Thank you for respecting that.)

I have learned that I can help my progress when I start coughing either by getting on my hands and knees if I'm in the floor or by putting my hands on the countertop and leaning over if I'm standing. It usually shortens the fit from coughs until I nearly black out to two or three good ones.

Meanwhile, Friday morning, I needed help. I needed more sleep, and I asked James to take Mal when he first woke up so that I could get just twenty minutes more sleep. But guess what? Yep. It had gotten to James, too, at this point. As an added bonus, James also got some kind of stomach bug, so spent a good deal of the weekend excusing himself from our company.

In the interim, I might have yelled at a lady from Chase who encouraged me to call back "on another phone" because she couldn't understand me as our connection was bad, after I'd been on hold 30 minutes, to find out why our HSA card wouldn't pay for our OTC Flonase - although I assume it's because they changed the rules to apply only to prescription drugs... AFTER THEY ALREADY HAD OUR MONEY AND THERE'S A PENALTY TO REMOVE IT. I asked her if I could call back without having to wait again, and she very cheerfully said, "Yes, ma'am; you can just call back on another phone." And I might have hollered something like, "I DON'T WANT TO CALL BACK ON ANOTHER PHONE. I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO WAIT AGAIN SO THANKS FOR NOTHING."

Then, as an added bonus, I immediately looked at my husband (remember the one who hadn't been able to help me with Mal that morning?) and said, "I NEED HELP AND NOBODY WANTS TO HELP ME."

>>>Edited to add: Mal was in the kitchen playing and started yelling random babble. Nice.

(Do you see a pattern here? I think I'm getting fragile in my old age. Actually, I've always been a little bit like this. I can hold it together though a lot... until I can't. Then, good god, it's messy.)

Now, I'm not proud of this, but James immediately emptied the dishwasher. Guys, he's a good man, and he puts up with my craziness, and I love him. He helps all of the time, and I'm totally in danger of taking that for granted. My pity party had nothing to do with him, except maybe my total lack of empathy for his illness since I kind of wanted my own space to be sick and have everyone else do everything so that I could lie down. I don't think that can happen again for several years, honestly.

Then, as an extra added bonus, I started my period last night. Which I hope explains my utter inability to deal with anything this weekend.

So... today, I haven't coughed much. I've blown my nose a lot, but no coughing. James went to work. Daphne's still asleep. Mal's been very very very very clingy and "nursey" and I keep trying to clear his nostrils, but he isn't very keen on that. I'm trying to distract him every time he asks to nurse, but once he starts crying and won't take orange juice, yogurt, a banana, cereal, or anything... I just let him. I'm sure I'll get the feeling back in my boobs some day.

There you go. There's the romantic weekend we had.

Just to let you know, we also went to breakfast Friday (which James had off) at an awesome barbeque trailer near here, then took a 3/4 family trip to the grocery store; we went to Mal's gym and later to Target to get James jeans and D a Minecraft gift card; and Sunday, the kids and I went to church. So we haven't just been rolling around in our misery. We're still living the life. It's just been a lot more intense the past few days. I'm ready for it to get boringer again.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Our Favorite Toddler Snacks! ("Our" = Mom + toddler)

Mal's 15.5 months old and decreasingly interested in pouch purees (unless another kid is eating them). He wants to eat what we're eating, or fruit. However, he does love his snacks, and there are a few upon which we agree heartily.

First I want to say that there are several I really wanted to love but that because they have beets as an ingredient (which is awesome, tasty, healthy... and stains like the dickens) I can't endorse because I don't let my child eat them anymore. He still likes to taste things, maybe spit them back into his hand to look at them, and then put them back into his mouth. And beets... it looks like somebody got murdered.

Also, at the end, I'll admit one snack that I buy because Mal can put away half of a package in one sitting and EVERY KID WE'RE EVER AROUND seems to agree. They're not my favorite because they're basically junk food, but as an adult, I appreciate "fun" food, too, so I'll tell you what it is.

No particular order:

1) Sprouts Crispy Chews. These are basically tiny squares of fruit leather, but because of I'm guessing the oat fiber, they also have sort of "crunchy" feeling bits in them. It's not enough to choke a kid, but enough to make it more fun than just a big chewy piece of fruit goo. They have three different flavors, including one with beet that I can't recommend! The ingredients include rice flour and the oat fiber I mentioned, but are otherwise all fruit- and veggie-derived. Except maybe for the mysterious final ingredient: natural flavors.

2) Gerber Fruit & Veggie Melts. Mal likes the yogurt drops that Gerber and Happy Baby make, too... but he LOVES this stuff. Again, the majority of the ingredients are from fruits and veggies, with less than 1.5% stabilizers, fortifications, and "flavors." They come in Very Berry and Truly Tropical.

3) Plum Teensy Fruits. These are what fruit snacks should be, if they were actually, you know, mostly fruit. There are no dyes, so no vibrant colors. There is cellulose and pectin, and besides those shape-keepers, they're just fruit. They come in apple, peach, and berry.

4) Ella's Kitchen Nibbly Fingers. If you've never bought anything from Ella's Kitchen, it's worth the purchase just to read the label, which is darling. I love the "I'm just" which tells you what the ingredients are. Looking at this, I'd say: wheat, oats, raisins (first thought: coffee beans), apple, pear, lime juice, and strawberry. Survey says: Organic whole grain oats, Organic malt extract, Organic raisins, Organic dried apples, Organic dried pears, Organic palm oil, Organic sunflower oil, Organic dried strawberries. Ha! Well, I was kind of close.

Anyway, you can see that there is no sweetener other than that the fruits bring. I like these because they're not hard, they're nice and chewy. But they are also not crumbly. I mean, your kid could probably crumble it up if he really wanted to, but if the kid is intent on eating, this is a pretty neat food (as opposed to chewing bars that promise "no mess." LIES.).

These come in three different flavors: apples and strawberries, banana and raisin, and cranberry and acai... but I've never seen that last flavor in the store.

5) Happy Baby Organic Creamies. Yes, if you want to be a jerk (like a certain male who lives in this house) and laugh at this name, have at it. but these are really good. Along the same freeze-dried lines as the Gerber Fruit & Veggie Melts, these are mostly veggie and fruit purees, but with coconut milk and probiotics.

Both the Gerber melts and these are delicious, as far as this grown-up is concerned. And they only have 25-40 calories per serving, so if you don't mind spending $5ish on a pack of snacks, you could totally carry them around to munch on when you get a craving.

So, okay, here are two other things. Two bonuses! You thought you were only getting one!

The first; This is what Mal loves.
Gerbers Li'l Crunchies. I'm convinced that these are the Chee-tos of the toddler world. They melt away but I've seen the kid smash one up in his car seat pretty good. Usually, I just let him eat one or two as I'm strapping him in (to distract him from the fact that he hates it), or wait until we're sitting somewhere. But, yeah, at the gym or at church, he can put away half a can of these. If another kid sees them? They want them, too. And the cannister is gone. We've gotten most of these, and he likes them all. I have avoided the Cinnamon Maple version, which lists sugar as one of its "seasonings." Nice try.

And, finally, this isn't a kid food, but it's perfect for my kid... and for the rest of us in the house.

Freeze-dried fruit from Costco. I've tried the cheaper Sunkist freeze-dried from Wal-Mart, but here's the deal: 1) They keep the peel on the apple, which I like but which gags my son. 2) The bigger container has a tendency to absorb moisture, even if you use the resealable close top.

When we get these, my son will typically eat the grapes (yes, peels; no, choke) and apples. The strawberries are surprisingly (to me) tart and would probably be really good on cereal, but the kiddo doesn't love them. I guess they're to balance out the super sweet pineapple.

So there you have it, folks! What are some of your favorite quick and on-the-go snacks for your littles?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year, new adventures!

As is probably typical this time of year, I've been thinking about the passage of time. There is a song out right now that talks about a nostalgic desire to return to the "good old days." Man, I've never understood wanting to go back in time. I think it gets better and better as I move forward, so I'm super jazzed about 2016.

For instance: Just this morning, Mal and I got out and went to Best Buy to make a return, then to Chick-fil-A for (free) lunch (woo hoo!), then to the library to return and check out a couple of things for James. I remember very distinctly when doing any one of these things would have felt like a major accomplishment. Doing three stops today? No biggie. Fun. Love it. My boy is growing up, and I'm so happy about that!

Traveling on a plane and driving a few hours with him in the car over Christmas were all fine, too. A year ago? Stressful nightmare! We had some stress on this trip, but it wasn't because of my little guy.

He's starting to sign a bit, too. "More" was his first, then "all done." He also signs "shoes," "tree," "banana," which he uses for pretty much any fruit, "dog," and he made up a sign for "wash my hands." I've tried to teach him the sign for "nurse," but he doesn't do it on himself. Instead, he bangs his palms into my breasts, which isn't incredibly subtle. Oh well. Baby steps.

I'm pretty awesome.
He can also shake his head appropriately for "no" and "yes." If I say, "Look at Mommy, please," he literally never ever does it because he knows I'm wanting to make sure he understands something he's not going to like at all.  And he's finally gotten the bit about waving goodbye!

He says "Daddy" all of the time, but only "Mom!" or "Mama" if he's upset. *sigh*

Mal has gotten cuddly. He loves to hug and put his head on people's arms and shoulders. My mom brought him a doll for Christmas and he's had fun playing with that, changing her diaper, giving her hugs.

Daphne... well, I can't post pictures or tell you much about her because she asks me not to. She likes to keep her online presence at a minimum, and I respect that. I will say that so far, fourteen is going really well. I love that kid.

James' job got crazy right before Christmas, so we were extremely happy to have a full week with him! His office actually closes between Christmas and New Year's, so the whole week was a holiday, no vacation time needed.

We were planning a big trip in the fall but have decided (since airline travel period is stressful, regardless of how well everything goes, since the stupid pointless regulations are cumbersome and for some reason James always gets selected for the "personal" treatment... except on the way home from Phoenix when they pulled our our baby food because it looked "suspicious) instead to try to take advantage of the Texas things Texas has to offer.

For instance, we've never driven into Mexico. James has never been to the Space Center. None of us has been to the McDonald Observatory or Marfa. And it's been a couple of years since we went to the State Fair. So 2016 is our Year of Texas. We're going to take some long weekends and a few days here and there to explore.

(I just read the government's info on driving into Mexico; we might have to fly over and get away from the border a bit. Holy cow!)

Anyhoo, just a little update to let you know how we're doing heading into a new year. We had a great, healthy 2015 (no one went to the doctor the whole year!) and are looking forward to an even better 2016. I wouldn't ever want to go back to any other point in my life. These *are* the good old days.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

An Open Letter to My Mom Friends with LGBTQ+ Kids

(Seriously, if you're not a mom with a kid who is LGBTQ+, this post isn't for you, so you can go read what a baby I was on vacation, or you can check out my hair dye reviews or return to whatever else you were doing before you got here. I love all of my friends, but this post is special and it has a very specific audience. If you want to read, then by all means... but  please try to respect what this is. If you disagree, that's fine, but I don't need to hear from you; I want to hear solely from the ladies I'm addressing this time. Thanks!)

Dear Friend,

Happy New Year! Hope this entry finds you and your family well. I don't see you a lot these days, but we've been friends for a long time and, thanks to social media, we're able to keep up with each other.

You don't go into too much detail about your kid's path (and why would you; it's private... except not too much these days is truly private), but I know. I might know because I follow you on Snapchat, where you feel a little freer to post things that disappear in 24 hours. I might know because I follow your other kids on Instagram. I might know because my own experiences have given me a highly sensitive gaydar. Regardless, I know, and I've been thinking about you so much over the past few months.

I've considered contacting you privately, but don't know where you are on your journey, of if you're ready to hear from anyone. So I'm posting this here in hopes that you'll read it and know what I want you to understand: You have a friend in me.

I have no idea what kind of support system you have, or if it's actually supportive at all. I hope it is. I don't know what your church teaches or how your day-to-day mom friends feel or what input you're getting from extended family members. I can't imagine. But whatever else, please know that you have at least one person who's on your side and who supports you and who prays for you and your family.

There are a couple of things I want to make clear up front:

1) I do not pity you. I don't feel sorry for you, nor would I speak in hushed tones about your precious child. I do not think you are living "every parent's nightmare." I'm certain every parent's nightmare is to lose their child, either physically or relationally. I see that you and your kid love each other and are involved in each other's life. That means you're winning at the parenting thing, friend. I'm proud of you! Way to go, sweet momma. I hope I will see the same kind of relationships with my kids when they're grown.

2) I won't nature/nurture you to death. Some people indulge in conjecture about "If only x hadn't happened" or "You have that one weird aunt" or "His friend probably influenced him" or "If you'd taken her to this church..." and try to reason "why." That kind of armchair psychoanalysis does nothing to honor where you are now. I'm here for you in the today (and the future). God help us all if we think it's our job to try to explain how most of our kids ended up the way that they did. Your child is the person they are. That's enough. That's good. That's great. It's not a blemish to cover up or explain away. Don't let people make you feel that way. Remember the relationship part? I admire you! You did great! Your kid's doing great.

3) I want to celebrate with you! Social media is full of pictures of kids' weddings and of grandbabies and the happier moments of life. Maybe you don't feel like you can post celebrations like "everyone else" does. Well, please, by all means, give me the chance! Your son and his husband about to have a baby? Send pictures! Your transgender daughter going out on her first date? I wanna see!

Maybe you're not "there," celebration-wise... That's okay. I am always available as an ear, or a shoulder, if you need one.

When you read this, I really really hope you think, "Whatever. That's nice but I have plenty of people on my side!" That would be amazing and awesome. I genuinely hope that's the case. But if it's not? Feel free to message me on Facebook, or email me at laura dot gatannah at hotmail dot com. I'll stand with you. I'm for you, and for your beautiful kid.

Much love,