How to feel softer

The amount of posts I’ve started writing during a storm are probably outnumbered by any other criteria for this space. We are experiencing a good ol’ fashion cleanse from the Winter here in West Michigan, right now. This minute. The skies opened with a crack and she has been pouring it on us for minutes. Which, when you’re still enough, feels like hours.

And. It. Is. Glorious.

I have my “Hallelujah” playlist on Spotify playing in the background. Ok, the foreground. Because it’s LOUD. The rain is the staccato behind everything else.

I can’t tell you why I love the rain so much. I always have. I remember the smell of the rain in Nigeria and the dust rising as it pounded the earth right outside of our screened porch. Everything got dirty, which was funny, because rain usually cleans things off. But in Africa – everything is dirt and dry and still. Until it rains. And then everything is sprayed in the evidence that the earth can still give birth.

So, hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve ripped off a bandaid and bled here. Not that this is what I do here, on the regular. But I miss having a space to chronicle parts of my life I want to remember. The gritty, the dirty, the salvation of it all. I want to see pools of blood to recognize where the healing came from.

Parenting is a constant in my life. We’re raising kids and we went from the Easter-Basket phase to the Barf-On-The-Side-Of-The-Road phase. We are constantly hungover from parenting.

It’s still sublime, I’m obsessed with my kids. I love them so much, it actually hurts. But also? I lose my religion on the daily. I wonder if we’ve done everything wrong, often. I fret over things that are not actually connected to me, but because my kid(s) are experiencing it – I do too. I continue to have weird correlations with their ages, although less and less with such a force of personal reconciliation and more, now, with a reckoning of understanding that I was not ever, nor was I ever going to be, prepared for this.

Sometimes Aaron and I will think back to when we were first married and we just laugh. I had nieces and nephews, I was an avid babysitter and caregiver. We had our shit together, or so we thought. And then we had our own kids – and it’s adorable, really. I’m so glad we were so blind about it, to be completely honest. How pure and unfretted and rare it was to walk into being a mother without fear. It was everything I ever wanted. To be pregnant and have babies and raise a family. God. Yes.

Still is.

Is it harder now because it’s almost over? Because I don’t know who I am, without them, any more? Because I can see down the road and the next exit is college? I know where this is going. They are going to grow up and our of my house. Out of my immediate care. She is going to fall in love and he is going to run so fast towards his goals we won’t know he left until he’s already out the door. They’re going to leave.

I want them to. They need to. This is healthy. This is what we want, what we’re working towards. And they can always come back, oh I hope they come back. But they’re going to leave. They will outgrow this house and our traditions and memories and they’ll brave a new trail and make their own paths and I’ll be the first one on the sidelines to cheer my fool-head off at them. I can’t wait.

It’s going to be so good.

It is.

But it’s going to be so soon. And I’m a mess about it. It’s not over yet and I’m mourning the end. It has been the most delight I’ve ever experienced in all of my life, to be a mother. Their mother.

I wonder if we’ll remember the smell of this rain. How it baptized me from everything still and dry and dirty and left the evidence all over my life that I gave birth …

to them.

Mothers Day 2008

As I end this post the song ‘I Get To Love You‘ by Ruelle is playing, and it’s everything.

xoxo

In the middle of Target

I have vivid dreams at night and almost daily I end up telling Aaron, at one point or another, “I had the weirdest dream last night.”

It’s kind of expected at this point, it happens so often. Yesterday my dream was that I finally put my foot down and we had 3 more kids. He waited about 12 hours before he gingerly asked me, so … is that what you’re doing? Putting your foot down?

I howled. But then for a hot second I wavered. And then quickly rounded out to: um, no. It took me a long time to be ok with being done having kids. You might remember the vasectomy story I told here years ago, but what I didn’t tell you is that in the middle of all of that, I was being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and my endocrinologist told me not to have any more babies. I needed to be done, it wasn’t safe for me any more. Being on the way to that decision on your own is one thing, being told to finalize it and it was over, period, is a much different thing.

Mourning the motherhood stage of newborns was a weird and awfully long season for me. As friends continued to have babies we would go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves (and my doctors, repeatedly) if it was ok, now? Could we do this, again, now? We had some hopeful answers along the way but they all ended with “high risk pregnancy” no matter what.

Clearly, we haven’t gone that route. When our youngest went to school my ovaries were white hot with wonder, I wasn’t ready to be done. I wanted more. When our oldest entered middle school, I freaked out and prayed for a miracle. Maybe I could just get better?

Each stage has brought it’s own bittersweet beginning and a very definite ending. And the white hot need is gone, the fever has passed. We now own furniture that will last beyond spit up, walkers, crayons and food stains. We’ve leaped to the other side, which has never been more apparent than on my trips to Target this week.

I can walk into a store and tell my children to meet me somewhere in 15 minutes. They are earning their own money, making (laborious) decisions about how and what to spend it on, and they are stewarding their small wages on their own. Learning. I don’t need to hover. If they spend $6 on something that breaks, they learn that waiting for something is always more satisfying than impulse buying, and they’re out their hard-earned cash. Which we talk about in terms of how long it takes to earn it. So a remote control toy might cost $50 but to our son, that’s mowing the lawn 7 times.

But that’s not the point here, while I was walking around Target giving my kids the time it takes to ponder and decide over something magnificent … all I heard was crying.

Other peoples children were throwing fits, mothers were often just deaf to it – because, sanity, but I had a flashback to being in their shoes. I hated going to stores when my kids were little like that, especially if we were primed for a meltdown. Around lunch or nap time or just before dinner. I don’t have to think about those things anymore. We go to the store whenever we need to, no big deal.

And it got me thinking about allllllll of this. Mourning the stages, but also being so grateful to be over some of those insurmountable humps. My kids throw tantrums still, don’t get me wrong, just not in public. And when they’re being unreasonable I can actually reason with them and tell them to knock it off or we can have a conversation and decide together.

I walked around Target listening to all the complaining of other kids, the crying from the toddlers, the whining from the not-quite-big kids and I listened to the moms, out of their minds. They just needed a shower curtain, or a birthday gift, or the happiness of Target to get them through their day. They just needed a break. To put their kid in cart and wander the aisles of a place they don’t have to clean, where problems don’t pop out of the leaky faucet and you can stand still in a row of pretty lamps.

The standing still, you guys. The not being needed because your kid is otherwise engaged (trapped in a cart) possibly with a small screen and you can use your brain to look at something other than the wall at home.

I remembered.

I remember.

Summer is a weird time no matter the age of your kids, I’m learning. Or is it just different as they get older? But still heavy handed on the needs? I’m still deciding.

What really hit me was realizing I had moved passed something.

And being ok with knowing it was over, and excited for the next part.

Celebrate Everything.

What do you do when your son announces in the middle of Panera Bread that he has started puberty and could we please have a party about it already?

Well, I have no idea really. But what I did was bake a cake because my one rule is to celebrate everything. If my kids are in to it, so am I. Puberty? Let’s celebrate the crap out of that one.

Here’s where we know more than he does: he has not started puberty. But he is convinced that this rite of passage is upon him and we are on Team Him, so it’s a go. We’ve had “the talk” with both of our kids and we have a number of different age appropriate books scattered throughout our library for them to pick up as they wish. Our son is very scientific about all the things and has informed us that puberty is a 2 year stage, of which he is smack dab in the middle of. According to his research. Which I’m sure is vast.

Here’s the deal, guys, ok? This part of parenting (as with all of parenting) is generally a very personal thing. Between you and your tribe, whoever has a voice in your kids life. Sometimes I call on my kids’ allies to help when I know I’m not able to have the kind of conversation or transparency I’d like with them, I rally my troops and the people they feel the most comfortable with – outside of me and their dad. Not just with sex and bodies and safety and love. But with anything really. Friends, siblings, family relationships, homework, responsibility, etc etc etc.

I was the kid who was most excited to turn 16 not because of all the driving or freedom (that part terrified me, actually) but because I would FINALLY be able to buckle my seat belt with my left hand. I am not even shitting you a little bit. I took photos of my first zit, first hickey, and have embarrassing momentos from my own rite of passages in life. No shame, guys. None. I geeked out about the little stuff.

So I really understand where my son is coming from. And God help me, we’re going to dance around like fools for fake puberty and eat banana walnut cake together and wear silly glasses because the look on his face when he realized what was going down? He will never forget that feeling of being seen. And I’ll never forget being there to witness it.

Banana Walnut Cake

Puberty Party!

Puberty Party!

Puberty Party!

The best

This sort of thing embarrasses the life out of our daughter, but she showed up for her brother and that’s what mattered. We had extensive conversations about if he was going to share this with friends, how and what would be appropriate to say. Because I promise, if it happens at home – it’s news on the playground. See mom naked? TELL YOUR FRIENDS. Dad moons the kids after dinner? DEMONSTRATE TO THE CLASS! Mention that we’re possibly thinking of maybe doing something? IT IS FACT AND THE WORLD WILL KNOW.

All true stories, friends. All true.

He wouldn’t let me bake a penis cake. I asked. (All those bachelorette parties would finally pay off) So I found a phallic inspire caked (Banana Walnut) and we donned hairy glasses to ring in the beginning of something great. Or the almost beginning. Either way: it was a good day.

Celebrate Everything.

PS: To his future spouse; You better believe this is making a cameo at your wedding. We have loved the intense dickens out of this boy and are not ever going to stop celebrating his everything. My hope for you is that you delight in his curiosity for life, his passion for living as much as he does and you both carry the flame forward, together. I’ll be there with all the cake, no matter the theme or cause for celebration. I’m in.

Two-thousand-and-who?

Before there were babies on the scene, I started hard-coding a weblog back in the day because I was mysterious like that, liked to write, thought I had interesting things to say, and liked a boy who could code.

The entry I can remember the most was about plastic water bottles and pondering the tough questions about whether or not water could actually “go bad”. Such originality. What educated talking points.

It is physically impossible to roll my eyes in the back of my head as far as I would like to for the effect needed of being entirely embarrassed and over myself for that period of my life. Which I documented. Out loud. On the internet.

There was a small break from my weblog days of yore to the infancy of this here website – what started as a “bump watch” for family became what we know today as jodimichelle.com.

That bump, if we can remember that far back, is about to turn thirteen.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. THIRTEEN.

The archives throughout the years are still here, albeit maybe a tad difficult to search. But they’re here, nonetheless. The teeny baby parent I started out as at the bright and shiny age of 21 is a bubble gum version full of raw pain, neglect, and heartbreak. And again, all of which I documented. Out loud. On the internet.

In the middle of it all, I was asked over and over again why I was so brave with my pain. Why was I so vulnerable? And over and over again I answered, “What else am I supposed to be?” That was real, then. That was my life. Torn and broken and bright and beautiful and full of life and longing and grief.

Now my little lady is about to come out to the world. She’s going to show up and color outside the lines and dance with abandon and wear her heart on her sleeve and cry and weep and laugh and achieve. God, she’s magnificent. She wants to sit at the table, THIS table, and start partaking. She’s ready to let the world in.

I’ve stopped sharing about my kids unless I have their permission. Something I wish I had thought of sooner. But here we are with chronicled little miracles throughout her life in writing. And her mother, fumbling through the task of growing up while raising her at the same time. It’s all there, here. For whoever wants to put their nose up to the glass of our little window and peer inside. I’ve let strangers in to my home. And, too late, I’ve discovered at what cost.

Not regret, necessarily. But she’s about to start controlling the scope of what she shares of her life. And it will all be public. When I was 13 and loved dancing in the mirror in my bedroom to Shania Twain – I did not have a public record of the boots I wore, my belly button, or the weird dance moves I thought were legit. I couldn’t stop taking photos of myself or friends, with FILM in a camera, but thank you Jesus, that there isn’t an Instagram history of my middle school years. The truth or dare sleepovers we had, the pranks we pulled, the notes I wrote.

Heaven have mercy, there is no lasting evidence of the stupid things I did or notes I penned.

Social media is a complex game these days and it’s all too important to her age group. I’ve been delighted that she doesn’t even care yet. But she will, she’s starting to. There’s a rage monster inside of me when it comes to my kids. And the fever builds to blinding when I watch them try to be brave in the face of rejection from peers. They bury it, don’t let it show. The minute someone shames them or casts them aside or mistreats them – I have violent flashbacks to the first time they took a breath, laying on my chest; it cuts to breastfeeding them in the middle of the night and hearing them giggle for the first time. Their first word, first steps … firsts. It’s a movie in my head and they’re the stars. One bright light after the next: moment after moment after moment. Building to the very moment where instead of stepping in, I have to step aside.

Thirteen. Not always, but as it happens for us, this is the year she gets the reigns. And it’s beautiful and wonderful and I wish I could tell you all about it. But it’s her turn. This is her story.

And what a lovely story it’s been.

Happy Birthday, baby girl.

Me pregnant with Jessica

I’m kind of obsessed with you šŸ™‚

Love,
Mom

The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.