Author Archive

Snapshots of My May

I’m not sure why I thought May would feel calm after the madness of April while Corey worked around the clock and I parented around the clock. The month kicked off with me running the marathon relay and each of my walking boys running their age-appropriate leg of the kids marathon.

Felix turned 3 on the 3rd and wanted only chapstick and a red heart balloon. The mylar balloon is still bobbing along the ceiling 3 weeks later and each of us gets our teeth and lips slathered in chappers multiple times per day. What a joy! That kid is the light of my life, just like I’ve always said about him…when he’s not refusing to nap and deliberately waking up his brother.

Miles failed a vision screening and had to get an eye exam, which resulted in “spectacle correction for astigmatism.” That’s how the eye doctor phrased it. Verbally. This guy and Miles geeked out about model vehicles and I think they’ll be lifelong friends. Miles and I also bond about spritzing lens cleaner and rubbing our lenses clean on our cotton t-shirts.

This article finally published, to my delight. The first doctor featured, Dr. Diego, was the doctor making rounds at the hospital when Felix was born. I loved him because he asked me how long I nursed Miles. When I said 27 months, the nurse in the room got huffy and scoffed, but Dr. Diego began to celebrate and cheer and praise me. He wiggled Felix’s little legs and told him he was in for a healthy treat. I felt so empowered in that moment and he helped to build my confidence in a really fragile moment. I was so glad to write about him. I wasn’t even able to make space in the article to talk about his work supporting breastfeeding in the Hispanic community here in Pittsburgh. He’s just a magical man and we’re so lucky to have him.

And those other doctors?? They’re doing really exciting stuff. Truly inspiring things. Dr. Miller is also pioneering a clinic to work with kids who are gender fluid and help their families to support them on that journey. Such important work. I gush!

I had my friend and her 4 sons over for a play date, and our 7 boys were wild and crazy, just like you might imagine. I missed a chance to be more assertive with a neighborhood bully who was just abysmally mean to them/me. She sat on her porch like a gargoyle muttering complaints about them and eventually came out to holler at me, “You know what, Katy, take them in the back yard!” I wish I could let it go, but I’m seething about it and I just don’t think she’s a good person.

My friend told me about this new type of undershorts to wear under skirts. Owning them has been transformative! I have ample thighs that rub together, so I usually wear bike shorts under all my skirts and dresses. Maybe you’ve seen me being less than modest in my skirts and dresses and worried I’m going through a Basic Instinct phase. In real life, I’m just wearing shorts underneath my skirt so I don’t need to care about climbing ladders or sitting criss-cross-applesauce. ANYWAY! These under-shorts are light and airy and silky and they breathe and they’re just so much better than the bike shorts! I’m never going to wear pants again.

I’ll be spending the rest of the month trying to remember my wedding anniversary and hire house-fixers. You might not see me until mid-June!

Posted by on May 20th, 2015 No Comments

Adulting in Hyper-drive

Remember the house I mentioned in my last post? We’re going to buy it, despite its substantial structural issues. Isn’t that crazy? I think so. But it also makes sense. Of course we’re buying a house that looks a bit tatty and has major issues with radon and crumbling hearths and termites and such. Why not?

Ugh!

I haven’t been able to sleep at night. Even though Oren is only up once, I spend hours lying in bed pondering all the very adult things happening simultaneously. And I worry. I worry about the packing I haven’t even started yet.

Today was an “errand catch up” day, with my younger 2 boys in tow, which already meant I was having a hard time adulting. I spent the day doing things like voting with a child in each hand, buying special under-shorts with a child in each hand, and buying a dresser for my middle son, whose clothes have been heaped in baskets for over a year because we never replaced his broken dresser.

But it was also mortgage application day. Thankfully, mortgage application guys make house calls. Mothers home with young children can’t get a hot coffee without dealing with 6 carseat situations, let alone medical visits at home, but mortgage men happily drive to your house and deliver stuff.

Mortgage Mike arrived just as Felix was at the peak of his nap refusal. I heard a knock at the door as I tried to eat some yogurt for lunch, and saw Felix opening the door. Felix wore only a shark shirt and was wielding a pair of scissors. He brandished the scissors at Mortgage Mike for awhile as I tried to explain that all instructions needed to be written down or else I’d forget them in between crises.

Somehow I managed to take notes, keep the children alive, and arrange for another quote from another roofer before I had to pick up Miles at soccer practice. That’s another thing–I now drive my minivan to soccer, often wearing yoga pants. I’m like an extra in a Paul Rudd movie.

On the docket for the rest of the week: completing the mortgage application, securing homeowners insurance, finding another general contractor who will answer the phone and also agree to come give us an estimate. Anyone local have a good radon mitigation company they like?

Posted by on May 19th, 2015 No Comments

A Time To Panic

If you know me at all, you know I tend to run anxious. That’s mostly why I married Corey, because he runs cool as a cucumber.

We finally, after 18 months of looking, found a house and had our offer accepted. So now, we sit and wait for the inspection results to roll in. Except, it’s more like they’re being hurled at us by a potato cannon.

This “lovely renovation” in an up-and-coming neighborhood (not our current neighborhood! It pains me to think of moving zip codes) is not so much a renovation as a money pit. The inspection results have so far revealed dangerously high radon levels, a crumbling foundation/coal cellar with exposed rebar and sprinkling concrete chunks that threaten to damage a gas line. There’s termite damage, a need for a new roof, extensive woodwork rot. I know there are other things that I am not thinking of.

We’re about $1200 deep into inspection and estimate fees as we enter renegotiations today. Corey is so oddly calm about it all while I’m in the midst of a panic attack. These aren’t the kinds of things that you fix and they make your home more attractive or add value. These are the sorts of things you need to fix to make the building habitable.

I’ve been open with Corey about my concerns and he’s talked with me about the logistics of the finances of everything. This is one of those places where it feels anti-feminist to just trust him about money and stop dwelling on it, but really, he has a degree in economics and holds a CPA license. He works as a finance manager. He knows this stuff and I trust him.

I’m meeting with him at the house this afternoon to meet the sewer inspector. I did say that if the 115-year-old sewer lines are shot that I’m out. He agreed. So that’s where we are!

In the meantime, life rolls on at breakneck speed. I try to take time each day to savor the kids as their wee-childhood years slip away. I try not to spend too much time screaming at them for things like popping the inflatable pool with rakes and kicking each other in the chest as hard as possible.

I had a birthday, which means I’m now in my mid-30s, which means I can embrace the gray hair spreading its way through my head and buy bright orange glasses if I want to.

Soon, if this panic turns productive, I might be typing this from the comfort of an actual home office amidst a home large enough for my many boys. Today, I’m eating cottage cheese from the container so as not to grind my teeth.

PS: Here’s that publication I was so excited about!

Posted by on May 13th, 2015 No Comments

Umbrellas

You want to know why I have kids? Why it all feels worthwhile despite the extremely challenging days I have home with these three young men? Here’s an example.

I took my younger 2 boys to the botanical gardens yesterday after kindergarten drop-off. (The actual truth is that I took them first to the six-pack shop because long solo parenting stints make me crave a nice wheat beer)

In the children’s market room at the gardens, an employee was leading a craft where the kiddos made little umbrellas from coffee filters and pipe cleaners. I make a point, always, not to take over my kids’ art projects and even though it’s hard to “let” them create something that seems gnarled and uneven, I want them to feel proud that what they made is theirs alone.

So, I protected my wee Felix as the employee tried to direct his umbrella decorating. He wanted pink and purple streaks just on one side and he wanted to add the orange sticker holding the package of markers closed. And then he was ready for his umbrella handle and oh! The joy on that boy’s face as he showed me his completed tissue umbrella.

I carry it so warmly in my heart.

As we made our way through the building, we noticed it began raining outside. I told Felix to put up his hood, because we’d have to make a run for it to the van. “Oh!” he said, “I can use my umbrella to keep us dry!”

And he meant it with every ounce of his toddler soul! He meant it!

And he held up that tissue-paper-pipe-cleaner umbrella to keep us dry as the three of us dashed through the rain, and he wept when he saw the rain had streaked his marker drawings, and I held him and told him I thought it looks so much more beautiful now that the rain broke it in a little bit.

tissue paper umbrella

Posted by on April 17th, 2015 1 Comment

Dispatches from A Mom Among Minions: 19 to Go

If you didn’t already know this, my husband works for an event management company that produces the Pittsburgh marathon, which takes place in 19 days. That means, for the month of April, I’m a solo parent. From the minute my 3 boys wake up at 5am until around 7pm, I’m awake and solely in charge of these three spit-fires. In addition to the day-to-day stuff, I’m also solely responsible for any crises that pop up, like when the door falls off the minivan or we run out of eggs.

Here’s how my day went today.

7am I scramble the remaining 6 eggs, knowing our family ordinarily consumes 8 eggs at breakfast. The children protest the lack of additional eggs. I forget we have a pound of bacon in the fridge and do not cook that.

745am Miles is, by some miracle/defiance of physics, still asleep. His ride arrives in one hour and we need to wake him from sleep, which kills a large part of my soul.

830am The older children manage to wake the baby from his nap (obviously, dairy farmers nap by 8am) with their thunderous stomping and piercing shrieks. This sends me into a fit of rage and I say horrible things to them.

1030am Felix has talked me into buying chocolate bark thins at Costco and this is a fantastic idea. Everyone agrees. We also buy a Ponyo DVD, which we agree to watch in the van in the parking lot while I nurse Oren and we eat chocolate bark thins. A train goes past, which Felix finds delightful. Things are looking up!

1130am While playing with the neighbors, Felix asks, “Can I pee out here?” and I have to ask them if it’s ok for him to pee in their shrubbery, which he does.

1215pm Back in our house, I’m nursing Oren when Felix shouts, “My poop is on the floor now.” Upon walking upstairs, I discover a softball-sized turd on the ground NEXT TO the toilet and I slide tackle him out of the way as he’s about to stomp it into the tile. I am not fast enough to move it before baby Oren starts to pat it as he crawls in to see what the fuss is about.

115pm Both boys are asleep! I run downstairs and put away the groceries. I see that we weren’t actually out of olive oil. We now have 3 gallons of olive oil, in fact. I eat more bark thins and watch the Game of Thrones premier.

315pm I have to wake Felix from his nap, which kills off more pieces of my soul, because we have to go get Miles to soccer. In the minivan, I tell Felix I’m a soccer mom now, terminology that makes him upset. “YOU’RE JUST MOM!” he screams.

4pm Other parents validate what I’m seeing, which is that Miles is really, really good at soccer! I delight in them telling me this, even as Felix drowns bugs in a puddle along the sidelines.

530pm I say, “boys, why is Oren covered in glitter?” and Miles says, “That’s hard to explain.” I sign and take all three of them up to the bathtub.

630pm I call Corey and tell him I can’t do it anymore, that he has to come home because Felix has ground a dinner roll into the carpet. I give the older children melatonin and pray for a wheat beer to appear in my refrigerator. Which reminds me of the drive-through beer distributer in Sharsburg, where I’ll certainly take the children (and their new Ponyo DVD) tomorrow afternoon.

7pm Corey comes in the door along with our friend. These other grownups take the children to begin bedtime and I sneak to the basement to row a 3k. I should go to bed, but instead I sit and grumble about the ad choices Amazon has decided to send to my Kindle.

Posted by on April 14th, 2015 2 Comments

Loving on Public Montessori!

My kids go to the public Montessori school here in Pittsburgh. I’m frequently reminded why I love this method of instruction, and recently, we had one of those days where I just swelled with good feelings about school. Miles has challenges with the self-starting piece and does struggle to focus at school, but there is so much else about this type of education that works well for us that I just know this is the right place for our family right now.

The last Friday of every month, the school does something called “Marvelous Montessori Mornings,” where families can come to school and see what kids are working on in their classrooms. I try to get a sitter for the younger boys sometimes so Miles can show me some of his really tricky math stuff (he knows how to cube numbers…like exponents!). I also try to bring everyone along sometimes so Miles can show his brothers what he’s been working on.

This past time was particularly special because we got our letter that Felix has a place at school starting in the fall and we’re pretty sure he’ll have Miles’ teacher. So Miles got to give him a tour of what will soon be his classroom!

Miles was so peaceful and gentle showing his brother which works might be appropriate. Felix, normally so rough with materials at home, could just tell the rules were different at school and handled the works carefully. While Miles showed me some of the stages of seed growth, Felix separated eggs into baskets using a tiny spoon. And Oren crawled around on the floor.

Felix chose a work where he laid a gold ribbon on the carpet and Miles showed him how to walk along the ribbon, carefully and slowly controlling his body. It was so nice to see them all working together.

Miles’ teacher then commented that she wished schools would put siblings together, because she’s seen those interactions be really beautiful. I sort of snorted and laughed as hard as I could, because I know that when it’s good, it’s really good. But when the boys aren’t getting along? And they have access to screwdrivers and nails and school scissors? Dear God! Look out.

Today I have to pick Miles up early for a doctor’s appointment. Even though he’s been on spring break for 9 days and his last day of school was a half day, he knew which “day” it is in the cycle and told me where I can find him at 2:30pm. I checked with his teacher just to be safe, and sure enough he was right. Obviously!

Posted by on April 6th, 2015 2 Comments

Long Tank Tops: The Struggle is Real

Forgive this utterly first-world problem and allow me to tell you, it’s hard to find a long tank top.

This is a Target maternity tank. Look at the length on that sucker! I still wear it. It’s even longer when it’s not stretched out by a baby.

I’m a short lady with a large bosom, and most shirts either ride up or billow out, mandating a long base layer for me to avoid a breeze on my midriff. Before having kids, I could get away with a standard tank top, barely.

When I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the Long Maternity Tank, and I love it. I still have 2 of those tanks, hard worn and threadbare over the past 6 years.

Yesterday, I polled Facebook to see where other people get long tanks, because I want to replace my maternity tanks. I’m done having babies, after all, but I still need a long base layer!

I was taken aback to see 78 comments on a thread about tank tops. Seventy-eight! People feel strongly about tank tops, as do I.

Many women who are long-torsoed seek long tanks. Many women who are large-busted seek long tanks. Many women just want one because nobody really wants her postpartum stomach flapping around in the spring air. But the tanks are hard to find.

The vetted results of my Facebook research, for which I must mention I am not compensated in any way:

–Target sells long, soft maternity tanks that women wear well past maternity.

Old Navy still sells their long maternity tanks, and they’re currently on sale for $8! Again, non-pregnant women are wearing them daily.

Old Navy has a “tall” line available online only, and many women who are not tall rely on these tanks and general tops to actually cover the midriff.

–Costco sells long camis. I define a tank as having wide straps and a cami as having spaghetti straps. I’m bountiful in the shoulder region, so when I wear a cami I look like a trussed pork loin. Other people feel excited about these camis.

(I should mention that some of the Costco camis have a shelf bra and some do not. Some women love a shelf bra. Some, like me, find it hits our bust mid-nipple and looks/feels ridiculous.)

American Eagle and H&M have some long tanks amidst their regular clothes

So there you have it. You, reader, are not the only person who needs a long base layer and who can’t find one of adequate length. But, solutions exist! I went with the Old Navy maternity tanks on sale. I’ll be sure to update when my order arrives.

Posted by on April 1st, 2015 No Comments

Rise

I have a few friends who sit down in late December and meditate on a theme for the coming year, and then make it so. I gave it some thought, and landed upon RISE.

I realize it’s the wrong time of year for setting intentions for the coming year. Everyone is coming out of hibernation, nobody seems super contemplative in spring. I share this now because I’m feeling good about the rising I’m doing so far.

2014 was a challenging year for me. Corey’s new job meant increased responsibilities for both of us, we added a new baby to the equation, and his arrival was tumultuous. I struggled with a number of interpersonal relationships in 2014 and had to shepherd Miles through a lot of obstacles at school.

When I was pregnant with Oren, I thought a lot about the Phoenix, this great bird who triumphantly flies up from the ashes. When I asked my cousin to paint a Phoenix on my belly, I was thinking at the time that my birth could be my chance for triumph, that the baby was the one who would rise from the fire.

I think, generally, 2014 was a long trial for me and this year I want to rise. I want to feel like myself again!

To that end, things have been looking up professionally. I had another essay accepted for publication and I’m excited to share that with you. I have a piece coming out in Dame magazine that I researched for a long time and began to write this winter, my first assignment after “maternity leave.”

Today, a friend asked me to run the relay portion of the Pittsburgh marathon. My initial reaction was to say no! No! Are you crazy? Not because running 6 miles seems daunting, but because training while solo parenting sure does. The family members of the marathon staff don’t really get to enjoy this great sporting event…except when we do!

I asked Corey what he thought, told him my big concerns about milk logistics for my will-be-8-month-old baby. He thought I should do it, and he’s right. I registered for the relay team and went on a bike ride today. My first step to rise up from the state of poor health my body’s been in for awhile.

Surely I know it’s amazing that my body grew a human body and has produced food to sustain that body. Basically, my body has kept Oren alive since November 2013. Not even basically. It has, and that takes a toll, especially since he arrived Earthside via hasty surgery. So now I’m motivated to rebuild and rise.

It’s easy enough for me to hold this perspective and feel excited, because my older sons are with their grandparents for spring break and I’m only in charge of one child this week. It’s been a nice reminder that I can still do all the things I used to do before there were intense, competing demands on my time. This week-long break from my big boys has let the other slivers of my self rise up to the surface, too. (also, I’ve gotten some sleep)

Who knows if I’ll get a chance to check back in. I’ll be busy training and working and parenting, and that’s just what I want to be doing! Still to come: fostering more authentic relationships with friends and maybe even going on a date with my husband.

Posted by on March 30th, 2015 2 Comments

On Childcare and Chilly Air

I’m starting to whine a bit now about the winter, even though I promised I’d have a good attitude about it until March 1. I really didn’t think we would have 8 days of school disruption in the second half of the month, though! It’s been expensive and annoying.

Schools have been closing not for snow, but for sub-zero temperatures. Children can’t stand out and wait for the bus in sub-zero temperatures, and the under-funded bus companies don’t (apparently?) have the right types of fuel or additives to prevent the engines from freezing.

Part of the problem is also that we live in a district where many of the children live in poverty and they don’t have the right clothing to enable them to stand at the bus stop in such weather. That’s a heartbreaking topic for another day.

My children are fortunate. We have heat in the cold snap. We have coats. What I do not have is childcare for Miles when school is closed on my work days or time to make up the missed days, since I only work part-time and all the other seconds of my life are filled with the very-big needs of very-small kiddos.

The younger kids can go to daycare no matter what is going on outside, because the daycare is in the basement of the caregiver’s home. F—- just has to scoot down her steps and she’s at work, so if we can drive or walk the kids there, they are taken care of!

Sometimes, a school cancellation means there is space for Miles at daycare, and off he goes with his brothers. Usually, he’s home with me watching too much television and building Legos while I try to work. Today was one such day. [I began writing this post 30 days ago and was so interrupted that I'm only getting to finish it now, at the end of March!]

I’m not sure what other working families do on such days. My kiddo is pretty big and wonderful right now as an almost-six-year-old. But he’s still a kid! It’s unrealistic of me to expect him to leave me alone an entire work day. We signed up for a Lego lending library subscription this winter. It’s like Netflix for Lego. Miles really only likes assembling the kits, so he doesn’t mind that he can’t mix them with his others to play. He builds them and sends them back, and this is perfect for about 45 minutes of distraction on days like this.

And yet I need to work!

So, despite the sub-zero temperatures, I hauled him to the grocery store and deposited him in the childcare there, where I get 2 hours to shop…or sit up front in the cafe with my laptop and try to cobble together some work time. Oof! I’m ready for this not to be something I worry about anymore.

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 No Comments

Mapping Out Mommy

map

This morning, I sneaked off to use the bathroom by myself, a rare occurrence. Usually, I have to take one of the kids in with me (Felix) so the others stay alive. Otherwise, the older two hit each other with heavy objects or else Felix gets too excited in his love for Oren and tries to smother him. Today, though, I thought I might risk a private moment.

Almost as soon as I closed the door, I heard it begin. “Where’s Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?!?!?!”

Miles quickly decided things were serious and said, “Let’s make a map to where she might be.” They were mounting the stairs with crayons and paper by the time I washed hands. A map! In the instant it took me to pee alone, they decided they needed such a serious intervention.

I know, because I remind myself every day, that these days are fleeting. I look at Miles while he sleeps. He’s no longer a baby. He’s barely a little kid–such a big man, with fashion preferences and the ability to read “inside my brain.” (“All I have to do is move my eyes around,” he says, not even moving his lips while he works his way through Roald Dahl)

One of these days, I’ll blink and they will be grownups. I know that.

But man! It is really. Really. HARD to be everything to these three young people, who depend on me so fiercely that my brief timeout warranted emergency cartography.

Living far from family as we do means that one of us needs to be able to put the kids first, to be present to meet these great, big needs. It feels right to us that I should be that person, especially as my body is producing the food that sustains the smallest of our babies. I know this, and we chose this and mindfully came to this decision. But days like today, I really feel the challenge, like I’m the one who needs a map to find myself. What this winter has taught us is that between inevitable illness and weather-related school disruption, it makes most sense if I don’t try to work next January and February.

Because this winter, I tried something crazy and signed a big contract for a writing project I find very meaningful…with a February 28 deadline. We fooled ourselves into thinking that even if schools were delayed sometimes, I would be able to work around our boys and chip away at my deadline. I’ve had some stressful weekends and late nights as a result!

Today we are fortunate, because school closure aligned with a cancellation at daycare and there was room for all three Lev lads. Soon after they abandoned their search party, the boys bustled out the door with Corey. It feels like all the molecules of the entire house just exhaled.

Soon, I know, I’ll feel sad about this empty, silent space. Today, I’m grateful for the quiet time to work. And to use the bathroom by myself.

Posted by on February 16th, 2015 2 Comments