growing up child

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The clearest memory I have of aspiring to be something specific upon entering proper adulthood is that I was quite torn between being a supermodel and a veterinarian. I have a vivid vision of the drawing I did in 4th grade for the assignment to depict what you want to be when you grow up – me in some sort of prom-like dress standing next to a fancy car. I’m almost positive this was leaning in the supermodel direction, but I suppose vets can be rich and fancy too. Other memories are dabbled with lists of the 42 animals I would own and care for with my mad vet skills, and beyond that I’m not sure I had any youthful career-oriented passions. I focused on getting the best grades possible and just assumed I’d figure it out someday. I had many friends that were far more organized with their future plans, and my feelings toward this were that of envy coupled with scoffing, as in you’re a nerd for caring so much about engineering but also I wish I cared as much as you did, now pass me the one hitter. Hypothetically of course.

At some point late in high school I decided I was going to be a math teacher and so this was my major upon arriving at university. Math. It sounds weird to say it like that. Math was my major. Seems too easy. Easy, however, it was not. Semester one was Calc I, and that was a breeze, but then came Calc II and I was headed down the path to C-ville when I made the decision to part ways with my “career plans.” Getting a C was not something I had the ability to cope with, and after a solid effort at improving this (I even went to office hours for EXTRA learning!), I put my interest in social drinking well ahead of my mathematical ambitions and dropped the class. What next? I employed the classic close your eyes and point method for deciding one’s future and wound up in the business school with a focus on marketing. A’s all the way and I barely had to study. Okay, I actually studied some, but mostly I’m just really good at school, and so I graduated in May of 2004 with a 4.0 and a bonafide BS in Marketing. Funny how we wound up with such an acronym for that degree, eh? I guess the alternative meaning of BS is more appropriately associated with that 4.0, which isn’t to say I didn’t actually achieve it, but more so that it means absolutely nothing in the real world. Perhaps I should have stuck with that C in Calc II because lord knows I’ve got enough patience to teach America’s favorite subject (perhaps tied with Geography) to a bunch of youngins who’d rather be doing just about anything else than solving an equation. BS.

In the end it all worked out because here I am with a kickass job running a company that I helped build from the garage up. Literally. I feel like I had a purpose here? Oh yes! The kids! It all comes back to them. At the very mature ages of 2.5 and 4.5, I’m a little disappointed in the efforts they’ve put forth to determine their life goals, but I will give them credit for putting some thought into it. The first ever mention of what either child wanted to be upon growing up was a recent phase Norah went through when she declared her destiny to become a tooth fairy. The conversation usually went like this:

N: Mommy, when I grow up, I’m going to be a tooth fairy. Crosby, what do you want to be when you grow up?
C: A dinosaur.

Well played. And then the other night, a fresh idea…

N: I don’t want to work when I grow up. I just want to be the boss of my kids. Or maybe a fire girl.

Two reasonable and viable options, and I remain enthralled to see where her adorably bright little mind lands next. Whatever her vocation, she seems already to have some semblance of an understanding of the value of money, and after shoving a few dollar bills into her Norah sized handbag, turned to me and precociously observed, “It’s silly that I have money at the age I am, isn’t it!”

XO.S.

It takes two

Let’s start with this: several weeks ago I posted about the number five leading a good number of readers to believe I was announcing a new Elder. I can see how that happened. I can also assure you that I am not even a tiny bit pregnant, nor am I planning to be so ever again. See how I carefully used the word “planning” there. The world is weird, life is unpredictable, people change, and though my immediate response to anyone that inquires after our intent to grow the family is somewhere in the realm of “absofuckinglutely not,” there’s no way for me to guarantee a zero percent chance of it happening.

All of which is to say – Elderland is perfect with two kids.

Which brings me to the reason for today’s writing – sibling dynamics. While I certainly know plenty of people who grew up as only children and turned out to be successful, well-rounded, awesome adults, I am a firm advocate of bringing more than one child into a family. When I first conceived (PUN!) of this post, my idea was to start by writing a bit of an argument for the importance of siblings, but then I read this article from Time magazine and decided that this guy “Jeffrey Kluger” who has been a science and technology writer for 40 or so years probably did an okay enough job that I don’t need to offer any additional insight. So instead, I’d like to take this opportunity to speak specifically about our little pair of siblings.

Norah and Crosby are almost exactly two years apart and this was 100% planned. Granted, we didn’t start trying for number two until the month during which I’d have to get pregnant in order for this two year differential to occur, but given the fertility track record of both myself and others in my family, I was fairly certain all systems were a go. And in fact they were, almost remarkably so, which still makes me marvel at how I didn’t wind up preggers long before I intended to. Sometimes things just go right. Our plan for two years was based on a number of life considerations, but one of the principal reasons was that we believe two years (or thereabouts) to be ideal for making the most of a sibling relationship. This belief is based on nothing more than our experiences, both personal and with families of friends, and it felt right, so we went with it. After two and half years of experiencing life with two kids, I’ll call it hypothesis confirmed.

They do all of the things that all siblings before them have done when young and learning how to exist in the world. They battle over possessions and struggle with sharing. They whine when the other is taking up too much space and “touching” them. They compare what they have and raise holy hell if it’s not even. They beat each other up when no one is looking and then boldly lie about it. Like earlier this week, for example – Pete had buckled both children into their car seats and then closed the car doors and stepped away for a moment to grab one more thing before driving them to Grams and Grandma’s house. Upon getting back to the car, what he encountered was a crying Crosby with blood dripping down his cheek. His immediate inquisition of Norah received the response that “he must have fallen.” WHAT?! How does a 4.5 year old already have the capacity to so decisively feign innocence? Also, do better Norah. He’s buckled into a car seat. Digression! Point being, they’re siblings to the core, and we’re totally into it because every one of those interactions has an effect on their ability to function as adults. And as long as we parents do our part to teach lessons and get involved when appropriate, but encourage self resolve when not, the long term benefit will be great.

Even better? Norah and Crosby wholeheartedly love one another, and the ways in which they’ve begun to express this are enough to melt me into a sopping puddle of pride. Some stories…

I tend to leave for work somewhat early as I have a 30 minute commute and also enjoy getting to the office with ample time to coffee, breakfast and settle. My aim is 7:30, and even if I’m 10-15 minutes behind, on most mornings the kids are still in their beds. Regardless, I make it a point to go in their room and say goodbye, and many a morning they will already be awake, just hanging out and chatting. This alone warms my heart to no end. The overpowering moment of mom emotion came the other morning when I went in to find Norah standing next to Crosby’s bottom bunk, rubbing his back and singing him Twinkle. It was quite possibly the sweetest damn thing I’ve ever seen, so much so that I’m a bit weepy just writing about it.

On the weekends, our somewhat regular routine is for the kids to climb into our bed after waking up, and watch a little cartoons. Within five minutes or so of this happening, one or both usually says I’m hungry and this results in a couple small bowls of dry cereal making their way into the mix. On a recent weekend morning, Crosby followed me into the kitchen and asked that he be able to make his own bowl, which I happily obliged (I’m all about some independence!). After stepping away for a few to put some laundry up in the kids’ room, I returned to find Crosby carrying two bowls to the bed, and upon seeing me he said “I made Norah some cereal too!” My two and half year old thought to get his big sister some breakfast, and that absolutely kills me.

Both kids have been some sort of sick off and on for a couple months because well, it’s winter and they go to school, and enough said. Cros was the one with the worst of it this past week, and if you’re friends with us on Facebook you’ll recall seeing this gush-worthy update about Norah’s endearing moment of reading to him. Despite her surprisingly sneaky efforts to hurt him when no one is looking, Norah truly enjoys taking care of her baby brother and does so in a motherly way that makes us proud.

Little happenings like this are a regular part of our lives, and ample reason for me to emphatically support the sibling scene. And while that scene may be made up of three or four or more for other families, for us, it takes two to make a thing go right.

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XO.S.

Snips and snails and… fuchsia princess shirts?

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We have a son. He is a boy. We know this for no reason other than the fact that he has a penis; that his genetic makeup consists of both an X and a Y chromosome. Aside from that, at the ripe old age of two and a half, there isn’t much else inherently gender specific, and all that makes him who he is comes from what we as parents, family, friends, teachers, and society impose. I’d like to believe that the greatest influence occurs right here at home, that Pete and I have the most profound effect on our children of all the people, environments and stimuli they encounter. So with that in mind, when it comes to establishing gender identity, we tend to back off.

Of course we’re not perfectly gender neutral. He has a boy’s name, we buy him boy clothes, there’s a fair amount of blue involved in his accoutrement, and there’s at least some measure of deep-rooted praxis driving purchases of toys i.e trucks and tractors. But as the situation arises in which Crosby is offered the opportunity to make a choice, we’re not looming near to attempt to steer toward the “boy appropriate” option. I imagine (hope) that this is how many parents choose to rear in our generation, so I’m certainly not on a soap box. Only stating that we aim to allow our kids to become who they’ll be without forcing them into a predefined box.

Our son has long hair. Not so long now as it once was, but still long enough that approximately 7 out of 10 strangers mistake him for a girl. This fascinates me because in those situations he tends to be masculinely dressed meaning said strangers have placed greater emphasis on hair length than clothing style when making a snap judgment about my child’s gender. I’m not suggesting one is better than the other, only that prior to being the mother of a luxuriously locked, blonde baby boy, I’d not have surmised that hair was the go to gender identifier for the majority of our population. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest though! When the incorrect assessment comes in the form of a compliment – “your girls are SO pretty!” – I opt to smile, nod, and move on. And when someone refers directly to Crosby as she or her, I politely correct them.

Crosby’s favorite color is pink, sometimes more specifically, fuchsia. At times, he prefers this rosy hue to an almost obsessive degree, offering signs of tantrum should we try to give him any other color plate or bowl from the Ikea dish rainbow (this thing). His love of pink has recently extended to clothing selections, many of which now occur from his sister’s dresser. His favorite outfit consists of Norah’s long sleeve, pink Frozen t-shirt and black cotton Bermuda shorts, but he enjoys shopping her entire wardrobe, frequently donning such garments as her bright red, fuzzy sleep pants splattered with the likeness of Minnie Mouse. Aside from his infatuation with Frozen which I believe plays the largest role in favoriting that particular shirt, I get the sense that his affection for Norah’s clothing comes mostly from his affection for Norah. She’s older and cooler and wiser (yes, I feel like this is already a thing) and he wants to do what she does, wear what she wears, and be just like her in any way possible. I allow, and in fact fully support this raiding of Norah’s drawers because for one, who cares, and more importantly, he looks pretty cute in pink.

Despite our efforts to avoid sex stereotyping, we have begun to notice in Crosby some behaviors that one might traditionally associate with boys (and men). Like touching his penis and giggling, for example. Penis was one of his earlier words, and the joy and amusement he derives from discussing, exposing, and handling his penis pretty much calls it. It’s a boy! Perhaps we can teach Crosby to scream penis anytime someone calls him a girl. That should help clear up any confusion. Our other most recent experience that may or may not be what one would call “traditional boy behavior” occurred just last weekend about two minutes before I was supposed to head out the door for a run. Crosby was in the bathroom, which I had to pass on my way out, and I looked in to say goodbye only to find my darling, sweet, pink loving, silky headed son holding up both hands to display a glorious spread of poop. Upon closer inspection, the poop had also found its way to his forehead, and the painfully panicked look on his cute little face was almost too much to handle. PETE! I hollered. COME HELP NOW! We teamed up to scrub him down, Pete cringing, me hysterically laughing, and both making attempts to get Crosby to explain what exactly lead to this disaster. Hopefully the embarrassment and disgust he was so clearly feeling in that moment will be enough to deter him from ever again putting his hands anywhere near the inside of his potty bowl, but only time will tell. And boys will be boys.

XO. S.

Running relationship status: it’s complicated

A year ago this weekend, I was exactly half way through my 22 week training plan for the Raleigh Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon – my first and only to date. Week 11 was the 15 miler, a run I remember very distinctly, mostly because it was miserable. My training was done without an official partner in that no else who was also running a spring marathon was by my side for the majority of my miles.  What I did have, was a group of great friends willing to tag along for a good chunk of many a grueling run, and on days like Sunday January 19th, 2014, this was a life saver. (Side note, I’ve now typo’d marathon as marathong at least four times. What Freudian brain happening is going on that leads me to keep adding that ‘g’? Okay, back on track.)

That Sunday, not a speck of sun slipped through the clouds, and the wind was howling at speeds up to 20 mph bringing the 40 something temp down to a feels like freaking freezing. The plan in place was for the run to start with Rebecca; for us to log roughly 11 together; and for that to end around our houses at which point I’d add 4 or so more alone. Plans shmans. We took a new route, and much like many of our other let’s explore Mebane adventures, wound up a bit lost. To be exact, we ran to another city. After more than an hour of headwind chapped lips and numbed noses, we rolled past the Welcome to Haw River sign. That was neat. Turning right on Highway 70, we had a good 5 miles back to our hood, and had Rebecca finished it out, she’d have run the whole 15. Oops. In the end, she stopped around 13, and I somehow found the strength to power through two more. Because, as another running buddy once told me and I’ve oft repeated to find my way to the finish, any idiot can run two miles.

While not every footed feat leading up the big race was as fiercely unpleasant as my fifteen, training in general was tough. Clearly, or else more people would do it. Most marathon training plans call for distances up to ten miles during the week, which I chose to ignore given that working full time and momming two little ones made anything more than a lunch break sixer a pipe dream. Unless of course I opted to get up before 5 AM, and no. Just no. I’m dedicated, and maybe a bit crazy, but not so much. The long weekend runs are what I hesitate to undertake again. Once up into the mid teens, it became an all day affair – planning, prepping, running, stretching, recovering, and then really wanting to do nothing more than lie around lazily until sleep. With only two days most weeks during which I could enjoy some family QT, giving up much of that in the interest of training was not an easy decision. On the flip side, the sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction I enjoyed after completing a daunting distance was powerful. A sort of high that helped to offset the pain and exhaustion, and kept me going week after week.

At the end of the race, I hobbled my way through the bevy of bevies (I swear they gave me 12 different things to drink) and found a nice cool spot on the cement on which to place my back. Supine for several minutes, I seem to recall (Pete recalls more clearly, shall we say adamantly) swearing off marathons for the rest of time. But as one little old lady on the way to the car offered in the form of advice, as I navigated three stair steps like a baby just learning to walk, “you won’t be ready for the next until you forget the last.” Little old lady also chose to divulge that the Raleigh Rock ‘n” Roll was marathon number 142 for her (or some absurd number like that), so maybe her age was allowing her to forget more rapidly than me. At that moment, I was depleted, I’d accomplished my goal time (minus a few minutes!), and imagining reaching the point where I’d forgotten enough to want this experience again was just not possible.

A month or so later I signed up for the Bull City Race Day Half Marathon, taking place in October of 2014. Training for a half is remarkably more reasonable than that of a full, and so this didn’t for a minute seem like a bad idea. As the race approached, however, I was overwhelmed by work, the weather was horribly hot and humid, and I had almost zero interest in readying myself for it. It was this aversion to training that lead me to commit to avoiding races for the foreseeable future and I’ve stuck to that commitment to date.

Pause for a brag moment… despite my attitude toward the Bull City event and what I consider to be subpar efforts preparing, I still somehow managed to PR at 1:42:29. I was pretty damn proud of myself. But still! No more races. I wanted a break from running obligation. I wanted to get back to a place where I ran for the sake of running, for my mental and physical health, and as something pleasurable that took me away from the crazy of my day. Not as a must do lest I fail to reach a goal. I may be running less than before and this may be leading me to have to reconsider the quantity of calories I consume, but I’m certainly not beating myself up if the weather is off or I’m just plain tired and don’t have it in me to hit the pavement. Norah on the other hand, is holding me to a higher standard. In the car, discussing my recent half marathon with Pete…

N: Mommy, what kind of race are you talking about?

Me: A half marathon.

N: It’s a marathon?

Me: No baby, just a half marathon.

N: So it’s only half?

Me: Yes.

N: So you’re not going to get to the finish line?

(Thanks for the support sweetheart!)

This conversation took place awhile back. But for some reason, despite its silliness and the fact that I would never let my darling daughter’s misunderstanding of race distance be the impetus for me to rethink my sabbatical (right?), it’s playing in my head. And for some reason, I’m thinking about running a marathon. So much so that I messaged a fellow runner on Facebook to inquire about his future plans for tackling the 26.2. It’s easy to sit here and think about doing it again. It’s easy (ish) to find a race that works with my schedule and register. It’s like medium easy, bordering on difficult, but not nearly as hard as the actual training, to convince Pete to be on board with me doing this again. And it’s easy to imagine myself at the end of the race, after months of hard work and dedication, feeling ecstatic about my triumph and almost equally ecstatic for the pile of food and gallon of beer I’d be consuming before heading home to soak in a bath and then sit on my ass for the rest of the day. The hard part? Maybe I forgot…

XO. S.

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I’ve decided I’m going to try food club again. I made the decision (in my head) over holiday break when thinking of ways to improve weekday evenings for this new year. I spent much of 2014 arriving home no earlier than 7 PM, exhausted from the stresses of the work day, and in no shape for doing much of anything that required cerebral function. On such days, I opted to give what little of myself was left to the two or so hours I still had with my kids before they turned in for the night, and so I was largely useless when it came to providing sustenance to the family. Thankfully, Pete stepped up as master chef of Elderland and got us through most nights, but he too had days where making a meal seemed a feat of mental strength. At least once a week, we went college dorm style on dinner, stacking deli meat and cheese on top of pretzel crisps. I’ll admit that I kind of enjoy a snacky dinner every now and then, but cooking and the resulting fare are things we very much enjoy and it saddened me to have so little space for them.

Up until Friday night I hadn’t even told my dear husband, or the fellow food clubbers, that the Elders were rejoining in some capacity. That’s just the kind of girl I am. I make a decision in my nearly never idle brain and then work to be sure all the pieces are in place for executing on that decision before I let anyone else that may be involved know what’s going on. it works well at least 38% of the time. This time my secret was revealed (by me) at dinner Friday evening when the subject of food club came up. “Oh hey, I’d like to participate this weekend. Is that cool with everyone?” I casually inserted into the conversation leaving little room for dispute. Pete maybe would have preferred I discuss it with him before making a public announcement, and I maybe understand his position (sorry, babe!). A mere moment passed before I was added to the text thread, and then it was official…we’d be family number five for this week’s food club.

What does it mean to participate in the Mebane Food Club (Supper Club, Food Exchange, Meal Mix Up, Dinner Deal, Southside Commune {Northsiders permitted}, Yacht Club)? It means we choose a recipe that’s “easy” to make in portion quantity 16 – 20, and then on Sunday, maybe Saturday, but definitely Sunday, we cook like maniacs, portion it out into fours, magically find enough Tupperware to hold said portions, take it to a neighbor’s house (or have them to ours) and trade it for other food while drinking and eating snacks. Got it? Cool.

In other words, we wind up with one family sized portion of our meal as well as that of four other meals made by other members and the fridge is stocked for the week. It means the extent of our cooking upon arriving home from work each weeknight is a few buttons pushed on the microwave and maybe five minutes of bread slicing or salad tossing.

We won’t participate every week, I know that for sure. Part of the reason is that there’s a trade off – the time we’d spend preparing dinner each night is now allotted to a big chunk of at least one weekend day, and if it’s a busy weekend, this may not be feasible (or of interest). I also fancy the idea of having at least a week between where I can try out recipes on us that might be appropriate for food club, and ensure the tastiness and make-ability factors are properly assessed. But even if just once a month, I’m excited to be back in the game – for the experience of mass producing meals, for the camaraderie of the Sunday night exchange, for the benefit to our budgets for both time and money, and for giving me a reason to blog for the FOURTH TIME IN A MONTH!

XO. S.

I pick really good times to attempt family photo shoots. Like that moment mid day, after a somewhat stressful Christmas morning where I maybe lost my shit 5 or 12 times at each member of my family, when the kids have just exhausted themselves opening presents at Grams and Grandma’s, and desperately want to play with each and every new thing as much as possible before the impending nap time that they’re whining their way toward. Perfect! Let’s pull everyone together and smile a lot!

A thousand or so clicks later, and I can’t say any satisfy my unrealistic need for a superior snapshot, but there’s a whole heap of happy and some major cute too.

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Crosby and I REEEEEAAALLY like smiling. Smiling’s our favorite.

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There, there little screaming manchild. Photo torture is almost over.

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Clearly Pete did not read the script noting that we had now reached the mouth half open part of the program.

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I call this one “Our Next Holiday Card.”

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And for our grand finale, the undisputed champion of the World’s Bitchiest Face Competition!

XO. S.

Did you know that my favorite number is five? Well it is. Back in the days of pager codes, mine was 55. Do I have a reason? Maybe because it resembles an S. Maybe not. Simply put, five has fuzzy feelings for me, and many lovely things are associated with it. We live on South Fifth Street in a house we adore and plan to occupy for at least another 15 or 25 years. There are five letters in my name, thanks to that handy little “h” at the end. 5:55 AM is a great time of day because I’m either sleeping or running; 5:55 PM, also rad – either driving home from work, about to drive home from work, or if it’s the weekend, chances are my kids have recently woken up from nap which means I’m coming off of a nice mommy break and ready for snuggles. You might even say that our very long engagement of five years had its place in the cosmic plan of our life.

In 2005, we relocated from the mountains of North Carolina to a tiny town called Carrboro, and so began what I consider to be the establishment of Elderland. While no longer residing in Carrboro today, we’re only a long marathon training run away, and being that my company is based there, I spend nearly as much time Carrboro side as I do in Mebane. On the note of my company, I began my career there in August of 2005 as the part time Gallery Assistant and first official employee of a husband and wife team, and today I’m the COO with 33 coworkers and our very own framing factory opening tomorrow. So 2005 was neat.

Now it’s 2015! And we’re prepared for all sorts of amazing. Life in general has offered us up a million things to be grateful for, but I’m not at all sorry to say goodbye to 2014.  It seemed to be a year of acute stress, onerous challenges, and emotionally exhausting transitions, not just for me, but for many people I love and care for, so for all of us, I say good riddance. I considered writing at length about the various reasons that I’m personally pleased to see a new year, but opted against as I’ve already spent countless hours worrying, whining, and woeing over those reasons, and I aim to move on. Right now. I also aim, as part of my exuberant efforts to make the most of this fabulous year of five, to obliterate negativity from my life. And while there are forces outside of my control that I can only hope to escape the tangles of, above all, this starts with me.

One positive I can offer about this past year is that it didn’t for a minute lack in the adventure department for the NC Elders; a trend I intend to keep going and then some forever and ever and ever. We’re pretty awesome at keeping things interesting, and I will try my darndest to be much better about documenting those adventures here on the blog for the next 12 months. It’s not as though there’s no record anywhere of the life we lived in 2014 – Instagram is my favorite, almost an obsession at times – but writing captures more of the memories and does wonders for my soul. It’s how I create, express, share, and one way that I give back to me. So I will try, and be proud when I succeed.

Tomorrow I go back to work for the first time in 2015. Tomorrow is January 5th. 1/5/15. That’s gotta be a good sign. Here’s to a good year!

And then there’s this… after a splendidly calm and cozy family friendly NYE with our good friends, the final Elder family photo of 2014. Plus one dog. 

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