Thursday, February 16, 2017

Giving Pickle Cookies

I've been riding horses since I was seven years old. Apparently I started asking for lessons when I was five but my parents finally gave in when I never.stopped.asking.them. Plus, they probably realized I looked like the awkward goose in a gaggle of first-grade ballet tutus and realized they were dancing me down the wrong path.

Eventually I had a few years of almost-national, definitely-regional success with some pretty amazing horses and extremely talented trainers, faking my way through the uber-elite horse world by cleaning stalls and grooming for myself every weekend. And then I went to college and that world was pretty much behind me, at least on a regular basis. Later on I still stood at the show ring, but usually had a rag in my back pocket and a martingale hanging on my shoulder. Sometimes I made it into the ring, schooling a horse in a warm-up class, or filling the adult eq classes. Sometimes I qualified for finals with those fill-ins. And sometimes that was enough.

All of this to say, the barn is where life gets re-set for me. This is true for most horse people; I'm definitely not saying anything new. But the sounds of the horses quietly eating hay, the background noise of the sparrows and the swallows, the smell of the tack room--those things reach inside and straighten out my soul a little, put life-sized annoyances back into perspective.

So then why did I decide to bring my five year old with me to the barn? Why did I sign her up for lessons? Why would I take away my sanctuary--let my chaos meet my peace? Because she was facing her own bit of chaos in her own five year old way. Kindergarten threw her for a loop. And going to the barn is always my answer.

She was quiet about it at first, like she is about everything. She was tentative and shy and barely spoke to Megan, her amazingly enthusiastic and empathetic instructor. But afterwards, she came alive when she talked about Pickle the pony, and she asked to go back. And so we did, several times. And yesterday, I sat in the viewing area, wrapped in the wool that I've spent years throwing over the backs of horses at shows, feeling like a barn mom. How did I get to be a barn mom? I know this literally happened a few weeks ago but when the hell did this happen??

And then. And THEN. Megan and Grace asked Pickle to trot and Grace just started posting--like really posting--up and down with each pony step, using her tiny bird legs wrapped in her almost-baggy baby britches, her little heels in her tiny paddock boots sinking down. And I started to cry. And laugh. And I covered my mouth so I didn't make one single sound. But she got it--something clicked and she got it. And I was so proud.

That's what is so awesome about riding. You try and you try to communicate with this giant animal. You squeeze a little harder, squeeze a little less, raise your right hand, change your track, keep your eyes closed, whatever. And then, it clicks. You get it; the horse gets it; it's accomplishment, but accomplishment with a good friend. And Grace had her first moment yesterday. And I was the stupid barn mom, crying with pride, laughing at myself at the same time.

I didn't know this was possible, but yesterday I loved the barn even more.

Unexpected, yes. But not unsurprising. For now, I'll be a barn mom on Wednesdays and a rider the rest of the week. And hey, I might wind up standing at a show ring with a rag in my back pocket, holding Grace's martingale. Or maybe she'll be holding mine. Either way it will be enough.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Are eight cookies enough?

It's been another year. And when I woke up this morning I wondered if I should recognize this eighth year, or if I should just go about my day like it's any other day. And I tried that. I did all the things parents do before 7 AM, shower and tea and lunchboxes and breakfasts and wiping noses and sidestepping and distracting and potty and ponytails and singing and finding shoes and getting more breakfast and dancing and coats and hats and mittens and keys and kisses and waving and, finally, coffee.

But it's not just any other day. I kept thinking about it. This day literally would not have happened if January 30, 2009 hadn't happened. I don't know where I would be if my MVD hadn't been successful. I don't know who I would be. I certainly wouldn't be doing all of that before 7 AM. Not even close. I wouldn't have my babies. I wouldn't be wiping my own nose, much less theirs. Would I even be getting up to go to work? Would I be sleeping in a bed? Would Chad be tired of taking care of me? Would I be able to shower? Would I still be pretending that my tears were simply watery eyes in the wind? Where would my pain have progressed to, 8 years later? I would not be dancing. I would not be singing. I know I would have forged ahead. I just don't know how.

I don't ask those questions very often, or even at all, anymore. I sometimes wonder if there are any new studies on post-MVD patients, on how long their pain-free lives last, but then I think I probably wouldn't read them. I can't live that way. If there is anything I learned 8 years ago today, it is that every day is a gift. And yes, each Nerversary is worth noting and celebrating. And singing about.

Here is Grace, with "Sing"

Happy 8th Nerversary.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lucky Cookie Number Seven

It's that day of the year where I think about what could have been and what is and I get all emotional and introspective and usually end up happy and proud of everything that has become of this crazy sugar-rimmed life.

Today, though, for the first time in seven large years, I realize that my life with TN feels distant. My surgery feels like a memory. I don't think about TN every day. I think about it probably a few times a week, but not every day. And I can't decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

I never, ever, want to lose touch with what TN-life was like. It keeps me humble, keeps me thankful. I never want to lose my gratitude for the pain free life that I have or the incredible love and strength that brought me to this day, seven years ago. TN played a huge part in the woman I have become. I can't forget that.

On the other hand, I have now spent longer post-TN than I spent with TN. That's a big milestone. Lucky number seven. And an entire lifetime--with two actual new lives--has emerged in the last seven years. I now spend more time looking forward than looking back. TN really is a memory.

I hope it stays that way. And in the meantime, I won't forget to see the beauty in the everyday small moments: a cardinal in the snowy backyard, the kiddos giggling in the bathtub, the pressure of Chad's familiar hand on the small of my back, the tiny sighs of my babies sleeping in their beds.

For the last seven years and the memory of the six years before it, I couldn't be more grateful.

Happy 7th Nerversary. 

Christmas Eve Day 2015
Marblehead, MA

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sister Cookie, Brother Cookie

I took a break, I think. I took a break from my life to bring my baby to life, while guiding my preschooler in life. But I'm feeling back, again, now. So hi! I'm back. At least for today.

Our family has changed so much with the addition of our little boy. He is just joy. Not joyful, not happy, he's just made of joy. He is giant and sweet and cuddly and I am not his favorite person. Nope, not me, not Chad.

Grace is Colm's favorite person. She can make him laugh with a single glance. And then they giggle and giggle and giggle and it's astounding to watch.

I worried about that--my kids' relationships with each other. I still worry about it. I only had sisters and I know how deep and profound and devastating and effortless it is to have a sister. So I wondered when Colm arrived, what the sister-brother relationship would be like. I'm sure it will take many, many forms as they grow, but so far, it's been just astounding to see their love and how palpable and honest it is.

I know part of that is their age--how can a baby and a preschooler be anything BUT honest and real--but watching them love each other makes me love them even more; love them as a pair, love their love for each other, love what they'll tackle together, love what they'll grow to understand about relationships together, love that no matter what, they will be sister and brother forever.

Yesterday in the car Grace said:
Mommy, remember how you told me a girl can marry a girl and a boy can marry a boy?

And I said: Yes, you can marry anyone you love.

Grace said she wanted to marry me, and I told her that while I'd love to marry her, I couldn't because I already married Daddy. So she said:

Then I'll marry Colm. But in a REAL wedding, not a pretend one. So he'll need to learn how to walk first.

I agreed with her and let that small "illegal" detail go for now. It's not important when there's giggling to do.

Wagon Ride. August 9, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Government Issued Cookie

So I've decided to take a stab at writing copy for the next FMLA (or MMLA) brochure:

Goooooodmorning, Momma! Today is the last day of your twelve week, no-expenses-paid vacation! You're ready! C'mon, you're not really bleeding anymore, and your nipples probably have healed so you don't scream on latch anymore, and you're even getting three whole hours of sleep in a row! Not only that but your baby can now actually hold it's head up! Sister, it is TIME to go back to work. It's time to drive around like a maniac to arrive to work and daycare on time. Twelve weeks is an eternity! Rome wasn't built in a day but it certainly didn't take twelve whole weeks, now did it? 

You don't want to be lazy now, do you? After all, the best way to raise a productive citizen is to be a productive citizen and let the productive child care industry take care of the child. That's the way! We won't be here for you if you need anything but I'm sure someone else might be.* 

Hope you enjoyed your stay! You can't come back again this year but maybe next! 

*Actually every other country in the world will be there for you except for Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho, so you could always just move....anywhere else that has electricity. But shhhhhhhhh! Don't tell!

So. Can you tell we've entered the most excellent phase of babyhood and working motherhood, where I now have to be at a certain place at a certain time in the morning? Can you tell I'm only slightly losing my mind? Oh, and cosmically my baby knows this, so when I set my alarm for, say, 5:30am, he wakes up at 5am. So I set my alarm the next day for 5am AND HE WAKES UP AT 4:15AM. This is, as they say, living the dream.

Really, though. This is how it goes. and you may be thinking--well, 4:15am, he'll go back to sleep, right? And yes, he will. But I won't. Nope, siree. 4:15 means I have a little more than an hour before I need to shower and if I go back to sleep I will most likely, in my extreme fatigue, keep hugging the shred of sleep that I have had for an hour instead of getting up to shower. Which would be a big, big, mistake, since that has happened for the last two mornings.

And that's really all I can muster right now, since I have meetings with clients today and I should save some energy since I didn't get three hours in a row last night. (But I did get 6 hours the night before...I guess that's something.)

Stay tuned. I hear it gets better.

(Especially with this face to look at....)

PS: I really do love and respect the women taking care of my children all day. I couldn't do what they do. They are amazing. Except they're not paid enough and I'm not paid enough for the amount of guilt. Soooo....yeah.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Six Whole Cookies

This day always feels like my own personal Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the love in my life, my family, my friends, my health, and most importantly, the ability to keep this very thankful perspective every day.

It's been six years since my MVD, since I woke up without pain. The amount of life Chad and I have lived since then is almost staggering. The thought that I can now take my two babies for a walk along the same path in Salem Common that Chad took me on my first post-surgery walk, the walk where we talked about the fact that now we could have babies, is staggering. The six years that I lived with indescribable pain gave me the gift of perspective that I am thankful for every day. It means that the exploding washing machine is just an exploding washing machine, the dentist is just the dentist, the big life decisions are daunting but in an exciting way. Problems are just fixable things to just...fix. And we can fix them, which should be celebrated.

As long as we are here, we should celebrate that. As long as we love each other we should celebrate that. As long as we can, we should celebrate. Happy Sixth Nervesary.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our New Cookie

Our little one has arrived. "My baby," as Grace says, is a boy!

Colm Robert Cotter arrived on December 7th, 2014, at 5:55pm. His arrival started and then stopped, started and then sped forward. After a false start on Friday, it was Sunday; I was reading to Grace before her nap. And then it was on.

Unlike Grace's birth, it was afternoon. But like Grace's birth, it was a Sunday, and it was beautiful. We arrived at the Birth Center around 2:30 pm. The sun was beaming on us, and I watched it set as I paced around the room. The Birth Center was empty except for Karen (the midwife), Chad, and me. I was able to talk and joke a bit between contractions, and I had a popsicle that I think was the best popsicle I've ever had in my life.

Colm's birth was intense. Once it really started, it went quickly. There were a few times I didn't know if I would get through it. There wasn't time to relax between contractions. There was time to just catch my breath and get my bearings. But then, then, he was here; he was in my arms, not even crying so much as just looking. Karen asked me to see if he was a boy or a girl, and I heard Chad's whoop when I said he was a boy--a truly, genuinely elated Daddy.

He was calm in our arms when we relaxed together for the next few hours. We got to talk to Grace before she went to sleep. My mom sent a little video of Grace saying "Goodnight, my little brother," which turned me into a puddle. It still does.

We brought him home on a stormy morning, in sheets of rain. He is a squeaker. He's noisy and sweet. His cheeks beg to be kissed. He makes a ruffley sound that sounds like chuckling. His hands are my hands. His head is Chad's head. He is so loved. His sister has not an ounce of jealousy--she just wants to take care of him. Chad wants to constantly cuddle him. He's growing so, so fast. He's already a month ahead of his big sister in size.

It feels like the beginning of an incredible adventure. I have absolutely no idea what is on the next page but that doesn't matter. What matters is what--who--is in my arms.

Welcome, Colm. You have made us complete.

Colm Robert Cotter
December 7, 2014
7 lbs 11 oz
21 inches