Saturday, January 23, 2016

Big City. Small Town.

The other day, while examining a patient, he mentioned the name of a specialist he had recently visited, to which I responded, "Oh yes! I know him really well. In fact, he's a friend of mine." The foreign born patient, most recently from New York, kind of laughed to himself, and in his lovely accent said, "Oh yes, I forget that everyone in this town seems to know one another."

Though, the connection in this instance, isn't surprising at all, as I was the referring doctor, the observation from the patient remains significant. And true. And what I love most about my town.

Yesterday, my second born, requested we go to the "burrito place with red sprite". He was talking about Ninfa's. A quite literal, hole in the wall, family owned and operated, tiny little, as authentic as they come Mexican food restaurant that serves warm, fresh, handmade, melt-in your mouth tortillas instead of the "traditional" chips and salsa. These are the "burritos" to which Curtis referred, and the "red Sprite"? Strawberry Fanta. Seeing as I have a 2 hour lunch break on Fridays, how could I resist the opportunity?

Eventually, I texted my mother and sister, and informed them of my lunch plans. To which, my sister replied, "Ha! Mom and I were just talking about that and she said, don't say anything to Erin until we know what time..." Thus. Had I not texted them, there is a really good chance we would have run into one another at this place anyway! Which, I forgot to mention, is no where near our neighborhood. I also forgot to mention, that the owners of this establishment had children who attended Matt's grade school. So, we kind of know them. Which is why we even know of the spot. Which I then introduced to my mother, who has a special affinity for tiny dives with amazing food.

 As we lunched, a few women walked in, and my mom remarked, "Oh how funny, I went to high school with a couple of those ladies." Small town is right! Then, not a moment later, who walks in? My mother-in-law. She was meeting these ladies for lunch. Curtis pops up and runs over to give his surprised Mimi a hug (and ask her to play on her phone.) What should have been a quick little lunch date with my 2nd child, turned into a family affair, and mini reunion of sorts. I left lunch all warm, and fuzzy, and full. Really full. Full of incredible food. Full of love for my family. Full of love for my city, and my life, and where I have landed.

Born and raised in Kansas City, I have lived in the same 6 mile radius for my entire life, with the exception of 5 years. I have moved exactly 6 times. Ever. Three of those instances occurred in those 5 years of college and post-grad work. I went away to Indiana for under grad, mostly because of swimming, but, I would have been fine staying near home. Though, I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on some beautiful part of life because of my extreme lack of wanderlust, I am mostly thankful that my family chose to establish themselves here. In Kansas City. Maybe, had I been born elsewhere, I wouldn't have such a content feeling about my city. Had I been born elsewhere, I definitely wouldn't dine out at the most seemingly obscure of places and run into 10 people that I know, let alone are my relatives.

I know the world is filled with all different types of people. To some, this small town living sounds appalling, and awful. I assume they feel trapped. Suffocated. Stymied. Missing some larger opportunity lurking for them, out there, in the great unknown. I am not sure what makes one full of adventure and the desire to uproot. To me, more possibilities and opportunities await me here, in my village full of people I know, who know me. It's who you know not what you know, right? Perhaps, there are 7 degrees of separation for humans throughout the WORLD, but in Kansas City, there are only 2 degrees.  Knowing that I can enjoy a meal, a moment, a conversation, face to face, with a friend or loved one, at nearly any time of any day? I love it. It makes me feel comfortable. Important. Supported. At ease. Loved. And home.

I will never claim to understand the meaning of life, yet, I can't help but think, living in the right place helps you discover it. I will never insist that Kansas City is the place for you. But, thank you, God/universe/random chance for dumping me here. In this wonderfully large city of opportunity, and this small town of comfort and familiarity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I have a question.

Scratch that. A few questions. Ok A LOT of questions. Like:

At what age do they stop crying!? Because at nearly 7 years, Brock still cries, probably EVERY DAY. Curtis every day, a few times even. George, about the same as Curtis. Mitch, every 2-3 hours, or every hour of you count his scream. And Diana. Well, she's a baby.

When do they stop the candy obsession? My sister recently mentioned that she had forgotten she even had candy sitting out at her apartment until my 2 oldest boys walked in...she has a 10 year old, so I guess by then?

When do they stop getting into shit. Like everything. I mean, NOTHING is safe. Not even junk mail. My children's particular favorites seem to be dirt/mud, puzzles/board games, legos, art supplies and food. With the occasional medication or hazardous substance attempt.

I feel like my husband is relatively well potty-trained. He seems to get 97% of his urine in the toilet, and lifts the lid, and whatnot. At what point in his life did he become completely self-sufficient in the bathroom? Even this morning, Brock somehow managed to get poop on the toilet seat, and urinated, almost completely, outside the toilet.

When do they become able to put themselves to bed? I fantasize about that moment where I am sitting on the couch, my 5 children happily playing quietly around me, I look at the clock and it says 8:00pm, so I say, "Everyone go to bed." Then, they all get up without complaint, put away whatever entertainment device seemed to be occupying their attention, come give me a kiss and hug, say, "goodnight, mom. Love you." Then proceed to walk upstairs, brush their teeth, and go to bed. OK. I know. That NEVER happens. Not even when they're grown. But, that's why I termed it a fantasy.

When will people not get up because they got seated near us at a restaurant? (Yes. OMG. That really happened, for the first time ever the other night.) In our defense, they were seated at the exact moment that Diana grabbed a water glass and poured it into Matt's lap as well as the car seat, and George was about to throw a fit about Mitch eating his french fry, so I jumped up and pulled George out of the establishment (again, a first for us.) Otherwise, the meal went smoothly, if I do say so myself. In fact, the booth behind us complimented us on our beautiful and well-behaved family. So, I guess I change my question, when will dining out with the whole family become an enjoyable experience for everyone?

When does the antagonizing stop? Haha. Ok, I am kidding about this one. Obviously, never. Still one of my favorite things to do to my siblings. And mom. And husband...

When can I leave them all home alone? Will that ever be a good idea?

When will they just do their homework? On their own? Without prompting?

When will they do their own laundry? Well, at this point, I'd just take them being able to get one shirt without unfolding and emptying their entire dresser drawer. I mean, damnit. That takes a lot of time and effort for clothes to get washed, sorted, folded and put away!!!!!!!!!! And. When will they stop stripping randomly throughout the day, creating more laundry than necessary? Will they ever stop tearing holes in the knees of their jeans? I don't anymore, so I guess it stops at some point.

When will I stop thinking they are so cute, that I want to squeeze them to death? Or stop wanting another one?

Will the questions ever end? I don't think I want them to...

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epic Family Photos.

Back in 2010, I was determined to get a unique family photo. I wanted it to be "real" and almost have a "dark" feel to it. I wanted it fairly obviously photoshopped. I really wanted this photo just for myself, something that I felt really captured "us". I tried to describe this photo to Matt. I tried to find examples of what I was even talking about...none of which really existed in the exact form I was looking. But he seemed to understand what I was describing, and said, I know just the photographer to do this, Chris Mullins. So he talked to Chris, and we scheduled a day to do it.

The result blew us (and Chris, I think) away. We were astounded and in love. Every single tiny detail in that photo was US!! The dogs, the cat, the kids, the smiles, the mess. I found that photo to be the most beautiful, perfect image I had ever seen. So, naturally, I had to share it. We wanted the photo to be untouched, no writing on it. I also wanted to send it to a lot of people. Therefore, we opted for a simple postcard at Christmas. I am not the most "green" person, but when I see the opportunity to send 200 cards, minus 200 envelopes, I take that opportunity.

This postcard has become somewhat "famous" in my tiny world. There are expectations out there. People want to know what our next card will be, sometimes offering ideas. When Chris walked in to photograph our 2014 version, he said, "Hey guys. Another year, another baby!" As I was pregnant with #5 at the time. For a brief moment, I had almost come to dread the creation of our yearly Christmas card, as I feel the pressure to out-do the previous years. Then, I think about the first one. 2010. How excited I was to just take a family photo, a photo that captures "us", for us to keep forever. And share for fun. So, I got over the expectations. I got over my own need to compete, and always go the extra mile, and the perfectionism. I decided, you know what? I have been dying for a family photo at the tree farm we have visited for 9 years now to cut down our tree.

And, here my friends, you have it. The 2015 version of Us.
And it's perfect.







Friday, January 1, 2016

The Happiest 6 Months.

Back in September, I flew to and from Chicago with Diana. She was 4 months old. On our flight home, the entire plane had boarded when someone noticed the overhead bins to be falling off the wall. We all de-planed. We had no idea when or if it would get fixed. If we had to wait for a new plane. When we would depart. If we would have to move to a new gate. And my stroller was already checked. The woman sitting next to me had purposefully chosen to sit by me and my smiling, friendly baby. Diana had already made friends with most the plane as she smiled to each and every person the entire walk down the isle to our seat. She has this effect on people.

 Now, one might be intimidated. Anxious. Nervous. Concerned. Worried. Or any combo of the aforementioned when it comes to just flying with a baby, let alone an unknown delay. To be certain, I would have been with ANY of the prior 4 children. But Diana? Nope. Not even the slightest bit concerned. With every one of the boys I had at least one moment (or a few in Brock and George's case) where it took quite a bit of effort to console them. So much effort that I was sweating. That I was panicked. That I set them down and left the room, so as not to shake them. That I handed them off to Matt after an hour and said, "here, it's your turn." This really only needs to happen once, for you to be somewhat apprehensive of the event ever occurring again. Therefore, a flight alone, with any of the boys, would have given me a moment of hesitance. But Diana?

Diana has NEVER had one of these moments. She. Is. The single-most consolable baby there ever was. Of all time. Ever. Not once, have I felt that little iota of panic. Not once, have I wanted to pass her off because of crying or discomfort. In fact, when she starts to get upset, my mother has more then once said, "Really? That's all ya got?" I am even going to go one step further, to say: not only does she not get overly sad or angry or upset, but she is happy. All the time. To everyone.

We all got off and hung around the gate, waiting for information. We were delayed almost 4 hours. By the time we were boarding again, Diana had a following and multiple offers to be row-mates. You see, she never cried. Not once. Why would she? She was being held the entire time. She had nearly one hundred people looking at her and smiling at her and talking to her. She loves people. I always feel like the general attitude is somewhat negative when it comes to a baby on a plane. Not this baby. I'm writing this almost 3 months later, and nothing has changed.

I have no hesitance leaving her with sitters. I often wonder if she is eating enough, because she never seems upset or hungry. She lets me put bows in her hair. She let's her brothers hold her. Unfortunately, she finds those fools hilarious. She wants in on the action, yet is fine as a bystander. She truly seems content, at all times. When it's bed time, I feed her, walk upstairs and lay her in her bed. Then she falls asleep calmly, only to wake up 10+ hours later, well after her brothers, with quiet coo's (and sometimes an arm or leg hanging out of the crip with her pacifier on the floor). It's bizarre and almost unnatural how easy she is. Or, as my sister has lovingly started to call her, "a dud".

Since day one, I have described her as practically perfect in every way. I just don't think there's any disputing it. In fact, she is directly on the 50th percentile line in both weight and length, and has been for EVERY doctor's visit! She is 7 months, and only sitting. She is content to sit. Her 4 predecessors were crawling everywhere by now, climbing, getting into everything. You hand her a toy, and she accepts it gladly. She transfers it hand to hand with her little thumbs curled into her palm, which is technically a developmental delay (that we are getting assessed) but for the time being, remains an adorable and endearing trait.
I hope she continues to have those happy eyes, and infectious smile for all of her life. She will make it places, have friends, and likely be successful in life, despite her apparent, absolute lack of drive. Though, admittedly, our most competitive child, Curtis, began as a content, ridiculously smiley little guy as who knows. For now, I will enjoy Di-nee-na, NeeNee, Nina, D and her laid back nature, dress her in coordinating outfits, kiss her, and remain blissfully rested.

We Moved.

We moved just over one year ago. We moved to the neighborhood of our dreams. The perfect size plot and home for our growing family. A huge and positive move forward for us. From the outside, it seemed exciting, new, fun, everything I had ever wanted. From the inside, it was misery. Looking back 15 months, I think I might rank moving, as the worst experience of my life, to date.

On a Sunday in May of 2014, with an extremely RARE moment of Matt and I aloneness, we stumbled upon an open house. I was finishing residency in a couple months, we had 4 boys in a tiny Cape Cod that suited us for now, but would require lots of work to make it ideal for us in just a few short years. So we thought, why not start viewing the market now? Start seeing our options for our price range? Of course, we instantly fell in love. The house met nearly every qualification I had in my head (upstairs laundry, 2 car attached garage, open floor plan, master suite with walk in closet, 5 bedrooms, updated kitchen, maintained elements of the 100-year old home charm) PLUS the price was right. Unheard of in that area.

Without much further ado, we set out to see about obtaining a loan. Nightmare. Word to the wise, check your credit score at some point between college and graduating residency...turns out little outstanding debt (like $2 at the public library) start to add up, big time. Matt spent countless hours, and I drove all the way to and from Topeka, with all the children, to try and get things on the up and up...we still fell 2 points short of the goal credit score. The house was out of reach. There is simply no way we could list, show and sell our Prairie Village home while we both continued to work full time, and the house was full of children.

We moved on, and mostly forgot about the home as well as the idea of moving anytime soon. Until, in July, the owners reached out to us because they "felt we belonged in the home", with information on a bank that might offer a Doctor's loan. And, they did! Before we knew it, we were negotiating and buying a house. By the time it was all said and done, we had a contract in August, with a close date of September 29th. Sounds scrumptiously serendipitous, wonderful. Perfect.

Now, what I am failing to mention in this summary of how we came to live at 6022 Belleview Avenue, is ALL of the rest of life that is happening in conjunction with the home-buying saga. In June, I was frantically trying to finish all my requirements for residency graduation at the end of the month. I had not signed a contract yet for a job. So, I also was busy getting applications sent, interviewing and compiling info and creating a schedule for my temporary job. The week of graduation, I found the perfect job, and signed a contract to start September 1st. I worked random days through July and August. My oldest started Kindergarten, at a school just 3 blocks away from our OLD house, 11 minutes drive from the new one. Then, after working my new job for 1 week, I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child.

Before I knew it, I was 4 weeks into a new job, 8 weeks pregnant (aka: miserable and worthless), and packing up our home to move all of our stuff as quickly as possible into the new home, so we could prep, list and sell our old house before the dead of Winter (the housing market down time). I remember multiple days of shaking from exhaustion. Matt worked tirelessly at the old house to paint, tidy up and perform multiple little handyman tasks.  He was at the PV house all weekends and evenings. I've never seen him so tired.

Meanwhile, I was at the new house, unpacking boxes, caring for 4 children, first trimester pregnant, trying to learn the ins and outs of a completely unfamiliar space. This was not home. Our old house was no longer home. We were in some kind of limbo land, where no space felt friendly, or inviting, or comfortable, or warm, or relaxing. Our entire life was unsettled and stressful. New job, new home, pressure to sell old home, no money, new pregnancy, new school schedule. On top of all this, the one piece that hadn't changed, my rock, our nanny would be going on maternity leave in October, so I had those arrangements to make. Thank goodness Matt had a nice, steady day job. I will never take for-granted, the wonderful feeling of security a home offers. Whether it's too big or too small, or dirty or clean, old or new, it's home.

Matt's parents helped immensely. My mother and siblings were around almost daily, helping me organize and unpack. Driving children too and from school. My head was never above water, but somehow, with the help of my entire community, I was able to bob up and down, with brief moments to gasp in some air. I was frustrated with so many things. Even things a minimal as waking up in the middle of the night, getting out of my mattress on the floor to go to the bathroom seemed to thrust horrific reminders in my face at just how foreign a place I was in, where was the damn light switch!? The new dishwasher was supposedly more high tech, but nearly impossible to load logically. Our giant oven and stove range wreaked of gas if you used the right side. Outlets are scarce and poorly placed. The stairs had a giant open space death trap on the first landing...that remains to this day, and I'm really not sure how or why no one has plunged off the side, but I'm not going to question it. The yard? It's oddly shaped. There's no fence. There is no great solution as to where to add a fence. For 15 months, we have been personally walking the dogs outside to go to the bathroom. I still miss opening a door and letting them run free, without a worry.

I missed walking through my front door, into our cute, well decorated and painted living room. I had grown to love the giant crack in our front door, and our non-working doorknob. I knew where not to step to avoid making creaking sounds on the hard woods. My bathroom was like an in home spa, the shower perfect.  The little galley kitchen drove me crazy, everyday, but, it had helped store and prepare food for my family for so many years. Each room had a purpose, design and order. We could pick up and clean the house in less than 45 minutes if needed. For so many months, I remained somewhat bitter about our seemingly "hasty" decision to move. We simply did not need that in our lives at that time. We kind of still don't. And, there are still moments have to remind myself that we did it because opportunity knocked.

Though finally, this Christmas, it became evident, things had finally shifted somewhere along the way. I felt good about how my home looked for the Holidays. I was actually excited to invite people over for our 10th Annual Sweater Party. While giving a home tour, I was walking backwards, and right as the person started to warn me there was a drop in the floor, I automatically and subconsciously adjusted my step, because I knew the floor. As I continued the tour, I simply accepted that rooms were not fully purposed, picked up, unpacked, painted. I walked through the backdoor on Christmas day, into our awkward entryway, carrying all of our gifts from our 3 family events, and did not feel that overwhelming panic about where to put everything.
Though, I am still trying to arrange furniture in the new home. Only 2 rooms have been painted. So many pictures and painting sit around, unhung. Boxes remain unpacked. There is still no organization of the children's toys. I realized, I was at peace with it all. I stroll throughout the house, flipping light switches without a second thought. I am not exactly sure WHEN I will find the time to accomplish these simple tasks, but I know that, eventually I will. I know that it will likely never feel "finished" because, after 9 years in our "old house", I know it sure never did. All I do know, it that this big, square, abundantly windowed yellow house, is HOME.