Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I've Moved 16 Times in My Life - Why This Two-Block Move Has Been The Hardest - by Rachelle

In my lifetime, I have moved 16 times (roughly). I’ve lived in three states and 11 cities. No, I wasn’t part of a military family. I lived with adventurous parents who decided to move to Hawaii when I was four, and lived in multiple Southern California cities before settling in Northern Arizona. They settled, and I moved on – seven times (eight, counting my and my husband’s latest move). 

I sit now, on our couch in my 17th home, my 12th city, my eighth move since turning 18. No, my husband is not military, either. Apparently I am just adventurous, too. 

The reason I am writing this blog is not to talk about how many times I’ve moved, though I see why it might appear that way. I am writing because this move affected me differently than all the rest, for some reason. I can probably attribute most of these feelings to pregnancy hormones, but no matter what the reason, I have been very emotional about this move – and it’s the closest move I’ve ever made; two blocks from my last house. Uh, you’re being a bit dramatic and ridiculous, Rachelle, I bet you’re thinking. And I wouldn’t blame you! 

Why now, out of all the moves I’ve done, am I feeling so emotional? Being the thinker that I am, I have been pondering long and hard about this over the past few days. I will admit that, every time I’ve moved, I’ve stood for a moment in each of my empty homes, gone from empty room to empty room with lumps in my throat, recalling the countless memories in each one. 

This, I have concluded in the past few days, is where the emotions are coming from. Given enough time, just like with anything, feelings of attachment fade and tend to become non-existent. I can visit my parent’s current house – a house I lived in from the ages of 15 to 21 – and not think about the silly teenager I was when I lived there. I can walk into my old room and see my mom’s new office rather than the room where I spent hours talking on the phone or agonizing over algebra. 

I can drive by the street in my hometown where I had my first apartment and not even think about it. But the last few moves are still very fresh in my mind, and I think that this move is reminding me of just how much of life’s moments have taken place in these houses that were once homes. 

In the past, I’ve always moved far enough away from each house that I left one house completely before moving into the next. There was no going back after the moving truck pulled from the driveway. The keys were no longer mine, and there was nothing to do but look forward. Well, with this house being two blocks from our last house, I have been there countless times to gather stragglers. I keep going back. I can walk through the empty house not once, but time after time, with memories almost alive surrounding me. 

And it’s those memories that are making me sad; not memories of only this last house, but memories of the past few houses I’ve lived in. That’s what makes a house a home after all, right? That’s what I keep telling my boys. They were sad at the anticipation of leaving our last house, but now they seem fine. More fine than I am, that’s for sure! I’ve been telling them that it won’t be long before this house feels like home. I tell them that a home is all about the people living in it (and the fact that we’re all still together) and the memories we will make in it, together. 

I think it’s the realization of how many things have happened in so many different homes, and this last house, the one where we brought our second son home when he was born, is another home about to be gone from our lives. 

I have, of course, had monumental things happen in each home I’ve lived in since moving out of my parent’s house. My husband and I got married and came home to our first house. I got my literary agent while living in my second house. He sold it to a publisher while living in our third house. We brought our first son home to our fourth house. We brought our second home to our sixth house. And now we are in our seventh house together, starting the process, once again, of turning it into a home.

But that’s okay. I like change, and I’m usually fine with it. But this one has been hard for some silly reason. We drive by our old house every single day, and we will for years. I’ve been dwelling on the thought of how long it will take before I no longer think of that house as home. Today I said to my boys something about the old house being our old home, and my older son said, “It still feels like it IS our home.” 

Truth. He’s absolutely right. We pull into that driveway to pick up some stragglers, and it feels like we are coming home. Of course it does, we’ve only been gone a few days. 

So the point of writing this isn’t to say how uncomfortable it’s been moving into a new house – because I think there’s always a little of that mixed in with the excitement of moving into a new house. The point is to just get down in words why I have been feeling so down in the midst of this move, and now I understand why. I just have to remind myself that, with each passing day, this house, as we share moments in it together, will eventually turn into our home. It just takes time.  

We will bring our baby girl home to this house in November, and that will be our first monumental memory made here. Three houses, three children. It would have been nice to have brought them all home to the same house, but I seem to be too much of a drifter for that. No matter how long we are in this house, I will make it my home for myself and for my family, and teach my kids the real value of a house – creating beautiful memories that will eventually turn it into a home.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Piece of Me - Rachelle's Take On Parent's Seeing Themselves in their Children

When we have babies, it’s fun to stare and study their eyes, their foreheads, their ears and chins and noses and dimples, all in the name of deciding what miniscule parts of their faces resemble ours and which resemble daddy’s. 

As they get older, it’s fun to determine whose expressions they make – ours or daddy’s.  

But now it’s getting really fun. Andrew is going to be six in just a few weeks, and he is writing books. I write books!! (Well, I wrote one book that actually got published www.onceuponawishbook.com just in case you're interested ha!).

BUT…I wrote hundreds of books before that, and it all started when I was probably just a couple of weeks away from turning six, too. 

Andrew cranks books out like Nora Roberts. He has ideas, he writes words to match his art, he imagines stories and incorporates what he learns in school and in life into those stories. It is mesmerizing. Not just because he’s my son and I think he’s brilliant, but because he has the SAME exact interest I had when I was his age (only my stories were mostly about cats and haunted places and shopping).

The first book we made together

His are about, well, everything he encounters. A few of his titles include “The Cat Book,” (I’m sure I wrote one with a similar title 30 years ago), “Monkey,” “Snails,” Rolley Polley,” "George Washington," “Sight Words,” “Zoo.” Right now, it seems that his books are mostly about things he learns at school and animals and critters that so graciously sacrifice their lives for him all the time (ie snails, rolley polleys, etc.)

BUT…the point here is that we share this love for books and storytelling. From the time Andrew was 18 months, he loved books. I thought, “Oh, I’m sure every kid loves books.” But when his brother came around, this theory was proven wrong. Evan is more of a go-go-go kid and is far too busy to sit and look at books. Even now, at almost four, he wants to talk the entire time I’m reading to him. Andrew was always silent during book time. He was the kid who memorized lines and finished the books’ sentences when I paused. He loved them. He had favorites and still does. 

He is in kindergarten and has a very obvious passion for reading and writing. He hates math (just like I do). During “free time,” he writes books. When we are home and he is free to do what he wants, he writes books. He used to just draw picture books, but now that he can write a lot of words, his imagination is his limit (and like any kid, that means there is no limit!).

Now, just the way we tend to see a lot of ourselves when looking at our babies, we must acknowledge that there is another half. Now I will talk about the fact that Andrew is half me, but he is also half my husband, Bobby (as to be expected). 

Andrew is right-brained and very creative like I am, but he has an engineer’s mind as well, just like Bobby. (I’m sure he’ll develop a love for math at some point, the way Bobby did when he was in college). Andrew is VERY inventive. When he isn’t creating art or stories, he is figuring out how things work. 

I vividly remember when he was about two-years-old and I took him on a merry-go-round. I watched the image of us, of him on my lap, in the carousel mirrors as we whizzed by. Andrew wasn’t looking around at the horses going up and down. He wasn’t fascinated by the white globe lights hanging above our heads or the fancy music playing as we spun. He was studying the wheels that made us rotate. He was bent in half in my arms, reaching down as far as he could toward the carousel platform to get a close look at the inner workings of how it was making us turn. 

I remember watching him and thinking hard about this. He couldn’t take his eyes off the mechanics of the merry-go-round. This is indicative of the way his brilliant mind works. He was studying rather than enjoying, at the ripe age of two. He remains this way. He is a thinker. He is introverted and analyzes the world around him, guided by his observations and thoughts. He is half of each of us, and this, I love to watch unfold.  Stay tuned for my son, the next best-selling author (one of us may as well be! ;)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

5 Truths About Motherhood - By Hilary

Happy Mother's Day!
So if you're a mom, you know by now that motherhood isn't exactly what you expected it would be.
Since I gave birth to our first son 8.5 years ago, I've discovered some pretty interesting truths.
Time for a countdown.
5. Sometimes the best thing about being a mom is when all your kids are at school and you have 5 hours of uninterrupted peace and quiet. So what if you're working or cleaning house or doing laundry? Nobody's fighting or saying "Mom, watch this" on repeat.
4. You have an amazing emotional capacity. This little person inspires a love so deep you want to cry, frustration so big you want to jump off the back porch, and a hope so wide you can't see its edges. This is the real reason mothers drink wine. Copious amounts of it.
3. Wine is your best friend.
2. You've passed on some of your traits to your children. And they're not all your BEST traits. Sometimes you cringe when you see it in action. That tendency to criticize people for making mouth noises? Yep, he got it from me. The refusal to wear non-matching socks because they feel different on his feet? I did that, too.
1. You wouldn't change a single part of it.
Kids giggling and sword fighting and sounding out the words of your favorite childhood books and yes, saying, "Mom, watch this," on repeat is the soundtrack to your life. Those feelings of love, protectiveness, pride, frustration and yes, even the occasional emotional exhaustion remedied only by wine are the setting in which you live. Wine is your best friend, and what an amazing discovery. Guess what? You've passed your positive traits on to your kids, too. You get to teach them love, empathy, tenacity, determination and kindness. And you get to see your best traits reflected in them.
Being a mom is an honor and a challenge - and it's one you wouldn't change for the world.
But that doesn't mean you don't relish the occasional quiet moment with that glass of wine.
Happy Mother's Day to my own mom, and to all the moms out there living these truths!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Rachelle: A Mom of Boys Talks about Having a Girl

I’ve had the experience twice of peeing on a stick and watching the blue faded line appear before my eyes.  You know the line, the one that changes everything. The one that says “you will not sleep for the next 18 years and you will soon love someone in a way you never thought possible.” 

Ya, that line. 

When I peed on a stick a few months ago after a missed period, I watched that blue line show up once again, this time completely unexpected. The first two times, that line needed to appear. We had planned for it to appear. This time, I thought my eyes were hoping so badly to see that line that my brain stepped in to play a trick on me. 

Nope. No trick. It was there. I stared at it for a very, very long time. Life had just changed, instantly, once again. 

My cleaning lady who speaks about 10 words of English was cleaning my kitchen. I ran out with the stick in my hand, announcing that I was pregnant. She touched her tummy, smiled, and repeatedly said “ooohhhh.” 

Clearly, a positive pregnancy test is universal. I still smile when I think of that story. Who does that? Who is so excited that they have to tell the first person they see? Me, that’s who; someone who can’t contain excitement very well, apparently. 

I told my husband, and after his initial shock and eventual happiness, we started talking about names. And the nursery. And when we should tell our boys. We decided to wait until the end of the first trimester to tell them. We wanted to tell them that they were going to be big brothers after the chance of miscarriage significantly decreased. We wanted to tell them the gender. And that brings me to the point of this blog post.

We are having a girl. 

I never thought I would write those words. We have our two beautiful, healthy, wonderful boys, and I just knew that this new little life in me was going to be their little brother. 

I was only 29 and 31 when I had my boys, so genetic testing was never really pushed when I was pregnant with them. Now I’m 35 and they highly recommend it. With a new, simple blood draw that has the same accuracy of an amnio, I opted in. We would know whether or not the baby was okay in a matter of weeks. And we would also know the gender. 

It’s funny how I found out. It was an email in my inbox with a subject line of “test results.” I clicked on it immediately and saw that the genetic testing all came back negative. This baby was fine. Thank God. And then there it was, the button that said, “Would you like to know the gender of your baby?” (After hearing my cleaning lady story, I’m sure you can guess what I did).

I clicked on the button. “It’s a girl.” 

A girl. Those two words were ones I never thought my husband and I would hear. We were parents of boys. We knew all things soccer, bugs, rough housing, mud. We knew nothing of pretty dresses and French braids. Now to put into words what I felt when I read those two words is nearly impossible. Life with my boys has been everything I ever wanted with having kids. They are my life. They put constant smiles on my face with their stories, their silliness, their extraordinary personalities. I imagined that this third boy would be just that, a boy. 

I cannot lie that I am one of those women who, before kids, always wanted to have a little girl. When I started having boys, that’s who I became; a mom of boys. And I was fine with that. I am in love with those two little men like you wouldn’t believe. They are my children. I would have welcomed their little brother with excitement and infinite love. 

And then their little brother became a little sister. 

I wrote a letter to their little sister about a week ago. It begins, “Dear Daughter,” and ends with “Love, Mommy.” I thought momentarily about posting it, but like Hilary and my mom told me, it’s far too personal to share. It’s too full of emotion that should be left between her and me. So I am going to print it out, seal it, and keep it until she is old enough to read and understand it. 

For now, I’ll just summarize that letter with the less-intimate details. 

When I was eight, I named my daughter. When I was 16, I decided that I would pass all of my bedroom furniture down to her, including the dress stand my great grandfather made for me when I was born. When I had my first son, I figured that the girl I always dreamed of having would be his little sister. When I had my second son, I successfully unimagined her from my life. 

And then she became real. In a moment, with a few drops of pee on a stick, she became real. At only 13 weeks, I can already feel her moving in my tummy. The bond has begun. This little girl will have two big brothers to teach her everything they know, and she will receive more love than she will ever know what to do with. We are all excited for the arrival of our little girl and what she will add to our family.
For me, she is a dream come true.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The End of One Era and the Beginning of Another - by Hilary

Okay, I admit it: I talk my husband into lots of things. I usually think I'm just presenting a new way of looking at a topic, shedding new light on it, whatever. "Just one more thing to think about."
But the truth is, I bring it up so often, so relentlessly, that he finally caves.
I've done it with dogs. I've done it with frogs. I've done it with a cat. And a pet rat.
And for the past year or so, I've been trying to do it with children. I want another one. Does the longing for another baby ever go away? I've tried a few different angles: four is a nice, even number. We could adopt another girl and we'd have two of each gender. Oh, you don't want a newborn? We can adopt a slightly older child.
He hasn't caved. Yet.
Most recently, it was chickens.
A couple of months ago, I approached him about getting some chicks. We've talked about it for the past several years but we always decide not to get them for some reason. Last year, we said we'd get them this year.
"What do you think about getting chickens?"
"I mean, they lay eggs. They do something for you."
"Well, they live outside."
"They're not much work."
"It would be fun for the kids."
"Can we eat them?"
"Then, no. You're always talking me into stuff. The dogs. The frogs. The cat."
We got the chickens.

As we were driving to pick them up from the store, my husband said, "You always talk me into stuff I don't want to do."
It's true. I totally do.
Meanwhile, our daughter outgrew her toddler bed and my sister-in-law gave us a twin-sized bed for her. As I dismantled the toddler bed - which used to be the crib (it converted) - I was feeling sad and nostalgic for another baby. I love babies. They smell good. They cuddle. They don't talk back.
"We should have one more baby."
"No. They cry. They're messy. You have to change diapers."
(Obviously husbands have a different view of babies than wives do.)
So I loaded the crib into the back of the truck. It's the end of an era, right? (And if we have another child we can just get another crib.)
We came home with the chickens, and my husband had the ingenious idea to use the crib to build their coop. It would save money and it's the perfect size.
"How nice of you to find a way for me to keep the crib!"
[Eye roll.]
That night, while we were sitting on the couch, watching a TV show, I said, "Okay, so I'm just going to ask you this one last time. And if you say, 'no,' I won't keep bringing it up. I won't present new angles. I swear."
He looked scared.
I said, "Can we ever have another child?"
He said, "No! We are maxed out, here!"
So - it's officially the end of an era. There will not be any more Dartt children. No newborns, no toddlers. I admit, I was sad. I mean, I love watching these little people grow up. And four IS a nice, even number.
But now I've got a little flock to raise.

And I've still got the crib.