Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Blue Blanket

It's October. That means it's Everything Awareness Month. Breast cancer ribbons and infant loss Facebook memes lurk around every corner. Everybody's got a meaningful car magnet and t-shirt and there are all kinds of fundraisers for all kinds of diseases and traumas that we're supposed to remember. And be aware of.

Truth be told, I can barely keep track of all the things that I've been diagnosed with. If we start adding in all the other things going on with other people, it's going to take more than a ribbon-shaped magnet on the car to make me properly Aware. A spreadsheet maybe. Or a really long scroll I can carry around in my purse. But I don't have a spreadsheet or a scroll. You know what I do have? I have a blue blanket.
Modeled here by a boy child
I got this blanket at TJ Maxx in June of 2005. It cost 19.99.

Given that I can't remember what I ate for breakfast, it's kind of impressive that I can remember the specifics of this blanket's acquisition. Except that it's not. Doss and I bought this blanket when I first found out I was pregnant. I was still in grad school and money was tight- so it was a big deal to pop twenty bucks on a blanket we didn't really need. But I was pregnant! And I really wanted this blue blanket to cuddle on the couch. And, one day, I'd lay the blanket on the floor and put this baby on it.

Except that never happened. That baby didn't make it. And I thought about throwing out the blue blanket. I mean, it was my pregnancy blanket- looking at it reminded me of losing the baby. But I really liked the blue color. And it had been relatively expensive. So the blanket stayed, hidden in a closet. And then I got pregnant again. I didn't touch the blue blanket the entire time I was pregnant, just in case. But once the boy was born, I finally got to see my baby on the pretty blue blanket.

That blanket saw a lot of baby time

And he grew up on it:
And then came the girl:
The back of the blanket is solid blue.
 And they grew up on the blanket together:

They became best friends on this blanket:

They learned to roll over and crawl on it:

It was just kind of always there. Just part of our home. And the kids have never known the blanket's story:

It was just kind of always there.

Then, it disappears from the pictures. It's not that the blanket went anywhere- it's that the kids got big enough to take pictures sitting places without something to sit on.

The blue blanket was still there, in our home while the kids learned to walk, read, and do tricks on their scooters. It was there while I had cancer and 37 other body parts removed. Through my depression and menopause.

I have a quilt made out of the kids' old baby clothes. It's called a Mother's Quilt. But this old blue striped blanket (that's not as blue as it used to be because it's been washed four billion times) is my real Mother's Quilt. These days, we sit on it at the girl's soccer games:

And so, this October, I choose to be Aware of this old, blue blanket. Because it's old but soft and I still like the way it looks. Because it's survived a whole lot of life but still has lots to offer. Because my kids have no idea what it's been through, and I hope they never do. There's not a t-shirt or ribbon for that. But there should be.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Real Life

  Sometimes, I tell people about my job.

 It's kind of hard to explain.

And when I try, sometimes people get confused. Because it sounds weird: I have a bakery, but you can't just stop by and buy a cupcake. It's open by appointment only. It's more of a cake studio than a traditional bakery, really. And I make cakes... mostly weird ones that light up or have swear words on them.
I'm a cake.
And there are these princesses... and other characters... that host parties and things at the bakery.

 So sometimes, there are five or six freshly washed princess wigs drying on the bakery porch.

Maybe my life sounds weird because it is weird.
I can't really offer a good explanation for this picture. Sorry.
I was telling someone about this stuff when they said, "You live in a fantasy world, don't you?" I thought this was the strangest notion. What in the ever-loving heck? Weren't you listening? I make light up cakes and set princess wigs and help kids build proton packs out of cake boxes and boards.

That's not... huh. OK, I can see how that would sound like I live in a fantasy world.

But I don't. Not really. And it makes sense if you think about it.

Yes, I can make you a tea party with the Mad Hatter or set you up with the opportunity to decorate cupcakes with your favorite princess. But that puts you in the fantasy world, not me. Actually, I'm the one who deals with that pesky thing called reality so that you don't have to.

I'm like... a reality liaison. I create the opportunity for people to abandon the real world for a little while. And, while the whimsy is spinning, I'm the one watching the clock, setting the wigs, preparing the food... it's a pretty neat gig.

But that's just my job. I have a pretty normal home life. There's a brown dog:

And a husband (11 years and counting!)

And then there are the kids.

I sometimes worry about their real life. I mean, they're growing up in an unusual environment.

But then again, they're growing up pretty great. I mean, they're learning to make and repair all kinds of things- from cakes to costumes. They're learning to clean all kinds of things, too! They help prep parties which gives them the chance to do things for others- the way the birthday boy or girl wants it done, not the way they would want it done.

It's a good thing.

In a way, helping set up parties and "supervising" the creation of cakes for others has empowered my kids to be who they are. They help other kids celebrate their love of Spiderman or Paw Patrol and then feel more at ease about celebrating what they like. This is how we found ourselves at Magic City Con this weekend with two little monsters dressed as Ash and Misty from Pokemon.

What, you may be wondering, does it look like when kids go to a con?

For the boy, it looks like Ash Ketchum trying to shoot stormtroopers.

For the girl, it looks like Misty chatting up Sailor Moon in the hallway.

Magic City Con was a pretty good distraction. See... Friday was cancer day at UAB. The doctor didn't feel anything weird in my neck exam (I HATE the neck exam) and my TSH and free T4 were fine. My thyroglobulin got sent to the lab on Friday. That means I'm in the 10-14 day waiting period for the results to come back. That's the test that lets us know if the cancer is back. Ten to fourteen days of waiting. It sucks. There's no other word for it.

Now the whimsy of MCC is over. Time to find more distractions while I wait...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dear Parents of Kids Younger Than Mine

Dear Parents of Kids Younger Than Mine,

I know what you're thinking- because I used to think the same things. You look at my kids who are seven and eight and you think, "I'm not ready for my little one to be that old! It'll be terrible." They're so big, so independent... so many adult-like behaviors as they try on new words and actions that they pick up at school and from the Disney Channel. (Sidenote: Hey, Disney Channel? Can we get a show or two that doesn't feature kids with smart mouths? Please? My kids get enough of that at home.) I know what you're thinking: Older kids aren't as great as babies and toddlers. I used to think that, too. Boy was I wrong. Apparently, the parents of school-age kids knew some things and were holding out on me. I'll spill the secrets here.

What I wish I'd known about school age kids when I was worrying about my babies growing up:

1. The worry: They'll be too big for me to hold them in my arms.
The way it is: You'd be surprised how well my kids still fit in my arms. You'll be amazed at how it feels when they're big enough to hold you in theirs.

2. The worry: They won't need me anymore.
The way it is: True, they don't need you for as much of the mundane stuff. At seven and eight, my kids can get their own pajamas out and give themselves a bath or shower. Certainly potty training is long over. They get themselves up in the morning. They can fix their own breakfast so  Doss and I can sleep in on a Saturday morning. They're even pretty good at working the Keurig for us. BUT! That doesn't mean they don't need us. Actually, the things our kids need us for are more meaningful now. Friendship conversations and homework and board games. Their physical independence actually allows them to rely on us for more emotional guidance. The smiles and coos of a baby at bath time were great. But the heart-to-hearts in the car on the way to school are even better.

3. The worry: They'll say things in public that will embarrass me.
The way it is: Yep. Better learn to laugh at yourself now. This one's true. BUT! For every embarrassing thing your child says in public, there are at least a hundred meaningful, insightful, or charming things they say at home. The good outweighs the bad here- it's still worth teaching them to talk.

4. The worry: They're not going to like what I want them to like.
The way it is: Yep. Sometimes. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing. You're going to teach your kids all about the things you like- they'll be exposed to it through you. Why not let your kids expose you to something new you might actually enjoy? My son got me into Dr. Who; it's turned into one of my favorite shows. My daughter made me watch a Barbie show with her once- have you ever watched those things on Netflix? They are full of tongue-in-cheek humor. I actually rather enjoy watching them with her. Your kids can teach you more than just how to catch projectile vomit in your hand if you let them. (Oh, you haven't learned that one yet? You probably will.)

5. The worry: They're going to argue and talk back.
The way it is: Sometimes. They will argue with you the way you model disagreements to them. So choose your fighting words (and tone) carefully. This is where you mother will look at you knowingly and think about how what goes around comes around.
It's true you're the parent and the authority figure. And your kids should be respectful. But sometimes, they have insight into a situation that you don't have. Listen to them.

It's pretty great- but then, I'm biased because my kids are amazing people. It is a privilege to get to be a part of their childhood. Seriously, I have no idea how I got this lucky. But I promise, you parents of babies and toddlers: the school years are pretty great, too.