Christmas in New Zealand. I don't remember why I took this screen shot, but it really epitomizes how backward Christmas was for me in New Zealand. I think that happens no matter where you go: holidays and festivities really anchor your life, for better or for worse.
Santa's still in his suit. The tree is an evergreen. It's probably 30 degrees. Celsius! For kiwis, this image is normal. And Christchurch kiwis had a lovely Christmas last year.
For me, it was all wrong. Don't get me wrong: kiwis make a GREAT Christmas: barbeque and water toys, trips to the beach and kids roaming the streets in packs. Our neighbors invited us for a great feast, and the company was wonderful. It was a perfect summer day.
There were lights and presents and songs (including "Let it Snow" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," no less,) but it just didn't feel like Christmas. Too hot, too sunny, too much summer. Our tree was pathetic.
for me, it marked the low point of our sabbatical. I was literally upside down. I imagine Aussie and Kiwi expats must feel similarly on December 25th up here.
So, that's your shot. Enjoy! (I like this. It's like the Magic 8 Ball. SURPRISE!)
I think a lot about Future Michele, the distant- or near-enough version of myself that is in better shape and a cleaner house than I’m in today. I leave things for her. (e.g. When we left the States, we sold our house without having a plan for where to live upon our return. That was a problem for Future Michele and Future 1977.) (We handled it just fine, thanks.)
Today I’m penning a note to Former Michele. The ambitious, successful, career-focused Michele, circa 2007, who was about to trade (read: donate) her suits and corporate meetings to become a Stay-at-home-mom.
Actually, it’s a letter to any Type A mother, but if someone could just deliver a copy to Former Michele, any time before 2008 was born, that would be great.
It’s going to be different. It’s going to be hard, particularly for you.
Because you will not be in control.
I know that sentence is terrifying.
Mothering is hard for every mother. It’s hard in different ways for everyone, and in the very same ways for everyone. It’s hard. It’s hard in ways that you can’t fix by putting in more hours. Mothering will take all your hours.
You can’t fix things with a bigger budget, in part because you can’t make any money doing what you’re doing, but mostly because money can’t fix your problems. Money can’t make your baby sleep more than 90 minutes at a stretch. Money can’t make a toddler pee on the toilet instead of on the rug when she just can’t manage that tricky snap before her bladder lets loose.
You’re not going to be as productive as you are right now. You’re just not. . .not for at least seven years. (And, I’m guessing here, probably not until all your children are in school.) (I’ll report back.)
You know how you always stay awake after a big move? Until everything is unpacked and in its place? Yeah, no. It will take weeks, and that’s okay.
You know how you start every weekend with a huge checklist, and finish it sometime on Saturday? No again. And that’s okay.
Because no one cares. No one cares if you don’t finish it all or don’t finish it to your standards or decide it no longer needs to be done. They’re not judging you.
If your children are happy and healthy, no one is judging you. Well, no one important is judging you. If you house isn’t tidy enough for school mom, if you can’t park your car in the garage for six weeks because it’s full of moving boxes and the neighbors balk. . .well, being their friends will take energy you don’t have anyway.
And that’s okay. Spend your time on your children, and everything will be okay. They will be happy. And eventually, you will find your people.
You also will find tiny things you can control, and you will relish them. You will find time to write, I promise. You will finish manuscripts. You will control that all by yourself.
And other than that, you will learn you don’t have to be in control. Hand control over to your children, as early as you can.
It takes a preschooler 19 minutes to make a peanut butter sandwich, but let her.
Your kindergartener will never wear clothes that match, but she will be proud of her choices and she will feel beautiful. Let her.
Let them choose dinner. Let them help cook, even if it takes two hours. Let them decorate their own rooms. Let them direct their own play. Let them dawdle.
Give them control of the afternoon or the day or the month of June. Do not rush them to maintain your arbitrary schedule.
It will be okay. It will be marvelous! And YOU will be okay.
I take lots of screen shots. Too many, really. Every few weeks, when my desktop is cluttered, I throw all my screen shots into a screen shot folder. It's a nice little snapshot into what is important or hilarious to me.
Here's an example:
That's 1977 talking to us via FaceTime after his Seattle interviews. We were in New Zealand, and I needed to remember that I had a partner in the whole parenting thing. Love hearts are the best.
I'll post a screen shot a week until I forget to post one. Then I'll apologize and get all sappy, and start over.
You have been warned.
I don't have a blog tag for cake, but I should.
During this second manual migration [insert ire here] I had to reformat most posts on this blog. I wound up reading a lot of it, because there was housework and moving to be done and reading old stuff from my brain is better than both of those things.
I had one major takeaway: I write about cake a lot.
There may be one in my oven at this very second. Because cake.
*Yes, I made a rainbow cake, because if a small person asks whether I can do it (or, worse, insists that I cannot,) I'll do it. I might make another rainbow cake for gay pride. Because cake.
Our new house has a fancypants washer/dryer combination. They talk to each other.
So, when I open the dryer, its screen lights up and wakes up the washer’s screen for a chat. They’re supposed to be communicating about the type and amount of clothing that’s moving from the washer to the dryer. “Be careful! They’re delicates.”
I think that’s crap. The washer is probably saying, “Can you believe she forgot this load overnight? It smells very slightly of mildew.” Or, “She overloaded again. You’re going to bust a nut tumbling this set.” Or, “Holy crap, does she wash a lot of small pink stuff.”
It’s not my fault. I have three girls. Society makes them wear pink. And tells them to change their clothes multiple times each day. None of us can change.
But the machines needn't taunt me about it.
So, we’re back in the States. Before our sabbatical ended (indeed, before we reached the one-year point,) Google nudged 1977: “want to work for us?”
So now he does. And now we live in Seattle*, which somehow feels further from our families than New Zealand did.
New Zealand was awesome. It was ten Christmases (Although Christmas in New Zealand was a low point. More on that later.) Had things been different for 1977 at work, we may have stayed forever. . .but they weren't, and now he's at Google, which would be a dream come true if he were the kind of person who dwelled on dreams.
You know how Google wins all the "Employer of the year/decade/century" awards? It's totally true.
We're settling into our new house. In a major coup, we got 2008 into an amazing school. Five months ago, sitting on my sofa in NZ, I was salivating over this school, but it's an option school, and we missed the window and I wrote it off because our timing just meant we couldn't get her in.
BUT, we got lucky. There was one spot. In May. We took it, and I could not be happier.
Seattle is pretty great. It rivals Christchurch for scenery, and my politics and lifestyle fit right in with our neighborhood. I miss my kiwi friends every day, but it's nice to be back in the States. Why hello, Trader Joe's! What's that you say, QFC? You have berries? Year round? For less than $20 a punnet?
I missed you, American economy. I'm not ashamed to say it. (I am ashamed of some other stuff, but we'll get to that.)
So, hi! What did I miss?
*I feel like Google Maps outed me! Cupcake Royale is on that map up there. Why? Why, Google, do you need to highlight that I may have gone there once or more than once since we moved here in April? Gregg's Cycles? Fine. Everyone in Seattle has a bike. But cupcakes? No one needs to know about that, GOOGLE! I am a loyal Google spouse. Be a loyal mapmaker.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: