I don't really know. I think it has something to do with the fact that I fell asleep on the couch at 2am this morning holding a sweaty little boy who needed to cuddle. I think it has something to do with the fact that I held said little boy in the crook of one arm while I vacuumed the entire house today with the other arm because that little boy is scared of the vacuum if he is ground-level with it. I know I can't stand to hear him cry. I know that before I had him, I could largely ignore a baby crying, but now the sound sends my blood pressure soaring. I know it means that day after day I leave my cute purse hanging on its hook and opt instead to throw my wallet and chapstick into a bookbag-turned-diaper-bag and walk around looking like I'm still a college student.
I don't know how I rank as a mommy, but I know that I fall short compared to some women I know. I don't sew, or cook a lot, or have coordinated dressy outfits for Topher to wear to church. But as far as the really important things, I think I measure up. I stay home with him, even when sometimes I daydream about having a career of my own. I hold him each and every time he reaches for me. And those times when I don't really know what to do with him, I just give him kisses and hope that it's enough. The other night he started crying and we couldn't figure out why. He passed his bedtime of 8:30, passed 9:30 and 10:30 and just kept crying. It was like having a colicky newborn again. We tried milk, water, ice, toys, change of rooms. The only thing I knew for sure was that whenever I would try to put him down, he would cry harder. So I didn't put him down. Finally, shamelessly using the animals, we distracted him enough to break the spell of his crying. I got the feeling that he had just started crying and couldn't remember how to stop. And then once he had calmed down, he took a bottle and fell asleep after 11pm. It was one of those nights when I was sure this would be our only baby.
I miss doing things on my own time, instead of jamming in brushing my teeth and curling my eyelashes whenever he lies down for a nap. But when his little voice says, "Ma ma ma" over and over again, I can barely contain my love for him. Being a mommy is so complex. You feel a thousand different emotions a day. When he wouldn't stop crying, I was so frustrated with him, but not because he was inconveniencing me or giving me hypertension. I was frustrated because I couldn't figure out how to help him. Whenever I lay him down for a nap, it feels like unloading my arms of a great burden. When he wakes up and I go to lift him to me, it feels like getting a part of myself back that was missing.
I'm scared when I think down the road and suddenly I have a 2-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 12-year-old. I don't feel like I'll ever mature enough to be a mom to someone at those ages. I'm afraid I won't be disciplined enough, or that I won't be as put-together as the other moms. Mostly I'm scared that once Topher outgrows the need for me to hold him, I won't know how to fix things for him anymore.
I don't know what a mommy is exactly, or why it's such a normal thing to be. It doesn't feel particularly normal. It feels like I will never stop worrying. It feels like a lot of pressure to become someone that Topher will be proud to call his own. It feels a little bit like choking whenever I stop and think how lucky I really am to have such a robust and bright-eyed child. Being a mommy isn't just something that I have added to my resume, it is something that I am ever becoming. And I hope for his sake that I'm becoming a good one.
We had a big weekend. It was TJ's high school reunion in St. Louis, and Topher's first time spending the night with Grandma and Grandpa. Originally, I was going to stay home because I just wasn't ready to leave him behind for a weekend, but TJ negotiated with me down to a single night away (leaving early one morning and coming back late the next day.) I figured I could probably handle that. Probably. It's funny how I'm always wanting time to myself but when I actually get a chance to leave Topher behind, I panic. I knew that Topher would be safe and loved, but I just didn't want him to get sad if he realized that we weren't around. Luckily, he has GREAT grandparents that he is completely comfortable with, and he has been at their house enough to know that it's his home-away-from-home. That did not stop me from crying as we were driving away, though. It's hard leaving your baby behind, and it takes a little leap of faith that they're going to be okay, even if you know reasonably that they will.
The drive was strange. There was no one in the backseat. If I wanted to lean back and sleep, I could. Or I could read my books as long as I liked, or play my Nintendo DSi with the headphones on. It made me remember what we were like as a couple before Topher, and it made me remember talking about how much fun it would be to have a little baby to take everywhere. (To be fair, I had no idea at that time the amount of stress that travelling with an infant can bring, especially one who hates driving for any real distance.) Being the only ones in the car, we could appreciate being alone in the car on a whole new level, even while missing Topher at the same time. We really DID miss him, but we were elated at the same time.
Before the reunion, we met up for dinner with all our friends that were in town. TJ is part of a group of about 7 guys who have all been friends since middle school, and 5 of them were able to be there with their girlfriends/wives. And I have to say that this group of friends is AMAZING. I just love them all, and it's so great to spend time with any one of them, let alone several at once. One of the couples, Jon and Ashley, brought their baby boy Troy to dinner. He's just a day older than Topher, so I was enamored with him, watching ways that he was similar to and different from Topher. And before he left for the sitter's, I had to grab him from Ashley and give him a squeeze. My arms were too empty. It was amazing how very much like Topher he was, and yet how unique each of them are at the same time. Isn't he a DOLL??
Ashley, Troy, and me, the baby thief :)
After dinner it was on to the reunion. It was pricey and at a country club, so I don't know what I was expecting exactly, but my expectations fell a little short. It was a smallish room, with music that was WAY too loud (making it almost impossible to converse and giving me a headache that lasted well into the next day). It was fun to meet a few of the people I've heard TJ talk about, but most of the people he really hung out with weren't even there. So we claimed a little table and every once in a while someone would wander off and say hello to someone and then come back to "home base." It was funny how it was a little bit like actual high school, with a baseline level of awkwardness and little spikes of feeling out-of-place (at least for me). But I'm glad that we went, if only to say that we did. I would have been just as happy hanging out with our original gang of friends, though, which is why I think that our after-reunion party at Steak 'n Shake was the best part of the evening.
Jon, Mat, TJ, Andy, and Phil...what a handsome crew, right??
Group photo with the girls, which took about 8 tries because our photographer was a little drunkety-drunk-drunk :)
The next morning we met at the zoo for some more time together, even though we couldn't stay very long.
Strolling through the zoo
The perfect ending to our babyless weekend...remembering how it felt to be a family of two
We had a great time. If we lived closer to the other couples, we would spend so much more time with them because like I said, they are all so darn lovable. :) But I have to say that the cherry on top of the weekend was coming home and finding Topher just perfectly happy. When we walked in the door, he looked at us and reached out to me when I went over to him. No bursting into tears, no trauma done. He was totally fine. He got a great report from Terry and Kathy, and I was just so proud of him for being such a flexible and happy little man. Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for making this weekend possible, and for giving us our first chance to sleep ALL NIGHT LONG in a very long time!!! We are so grateful for the chance to get away, and even more grateful that Topher feels so safe and loved in your home. Another big thanks to Mat's parents, who always put us up and feed us when we come to St. Louis--you're the best! And to Mat, Angie, Phil, Kate, Andy, Anne, Jon, Ashley, and Troy...it was soooo great to see all of you and we can't wait to do it again!!!
He was being so cute. I was picturing him in a Cheez-it commercial.
He seemed fine. He didn't seem to understand how to get into the box, but I should have known better...
Uh oh, I looked away for a second. When I turned back...
If Topher was dreaming of rolling in a pile of Cheez-its, today was his lucky day.
My fireplace. You can turn it on with the remote control, and you can either just have the flames (turned up or down for ambiance) or you can have flames combined with heat blowing out. I can't wait for it to get chilly enough for me to curl up by the fireplace with a good book.
My smooth-top stove. I've always heard that gas stoves are better, but I haven't noticed any difference. And it was so hard for me to keep all the nooks and crannies of the gas burners clean. Now I just wipe it off and there are no parts to take off and soak. I always want this kind of stove!!
My puppy. After living on the farm for months (where she is still loved and spoiled, don't get me wrong!), she is just loving being indoors with the humans. She seems so content here, and when I see her this relaxed, it calms me down, too.
Having 2 bathtubs. I love that Topher has his very own bathroom and bathtub. All of his supplies and toys can stay in there and he can splash around as much as he wants every night (and he does!)
But most of all, I love this family we've made. A little boy, a giant puppy, a funny cat...I can't imagine us being fulfilled without any one member. And as each day goes by, I really, really can't imagine what our life would be like without Topher. I don't want to know. He's the best thing we have ever done, ever.
We've been here a week now, and we still love it. Compared to the bike bar down the road and frequent train whistles (all through the night!) of Cambridge, it's insanely quiet here. We never hear anything! Topher has had a busy week, going out with me every day to nearby stores and visiting my old workplace. He loves living with Sassy, and thinks it's so funny whenever she drinks her water. I've caught him several times splashing in her water bowl and trying to dunk his own face in it. He also likes the stairs and can now get up the entire staircase in about 30 seconds flat. Going down is still a problem. Today he even made a new girlfriend at church and while she was dainty and trying to hug him, he kept trying to grab her and sit on her. What a little bruiser. Luckily, she can totally hold her own, and being a month older, she can stand up and walk while he just crawls to catch up. They were soooo cute together. I didn't hear a word of Sunday School because I was laughing too hard at the two of them. :)
Topher, getting the hang of climbing the staircase:
Our neighbors Heather and Justin from Cambridge came to visit us Friday night. They say the people who bought our house "aren't us" and their daughter has a screaming fit every night at bedtime that the whole neighborhood is subjected to. Sorry, guys! We all went out to dinner for Chinese and Topher had fun eating fistfuls of rice and making an absolute mess.
Topher, at China Moon Chinese restaurant (just down the road from us!)
Our fortune cookies came with a side of dry ice...very impressive (and mystic)
Our little city-dwelling family
What else can I say? We just LOVE it here. We love this house, we love Ankeny, and we feel so much more relaxed now. TJ's just down the road from work, we have groceries and stores nearby, our neighborhood is clean...it's everything we've been hoping for. It's funny how a change of location can change your life.
These are all out of order, but here's some pics of our new place:
Living room, Sassy loungingTopher's room (we put a twin bed in there as well as the crib in case we have to lay down with him at night...the dresser will go in his closet and we'll have a shelf up for his radio soon.)Our room, looking into the bathroom and closet, Sassy's bed
Our bedroom...we love the vaulted ceiling
Living room, happy dog
Topher checking out the neighborhood
Topher and Sassy
Here we are, in our new townhome in our new town. And I have to say that we LOVE it here. It's a humble home, but it's everything we need. Honestly, it might be small and cozy, but as we unpacked, there was room for everything we own. Our stuff just fits here, and it doesn't feel crowded or crammed. Turns out you don't need a lot of different rooms when you don't have that much stuff. It's a lofty feeling, living up off the ground, and the neighborhood is shockingly quiet. We never even know that we have a shared wall. And because we're surrounded by hundreds of nearly identical units, there's no pressure to compare ourselves to the neighbors. It feels very equalizing, which is appealing when you're on a budget.
I thought that leaving the old house would just immediately lift the giant weight from my shoulders, but it hasn't really happened that way. Instead, every morning I wake up here, I feel a little lighter, like the stress is coming off in layers. It's hard to believe that all the stress of selling and moving is over, just like that. And we have our dog back! (She's been living out at Terry & Kathy's farm for months so we could keep our house show-clean and we've missed her.)This is a pet-friendly complex, so there are a lot of dogs here for Sassy to socialize with (she just needs to work on her leash manners a little bit more!) Everyone we've met so far has been friendly and welcoming, and there are even several young families from our church that live in this same complex.
I'm not trying to brag and I hope it doesn't sound that way! This is pretty much the cheapest living option in all of Ankeny (even cheaper than rent!) so it's not like I'm saying that we have some grand, impressive new home. I'm just trying to say that after our last home, we're so grateful to be here. We feel safe and settled and just so fortunate that our family fits here so well. Topher seems to like his room, we love ours, and the pets just sleep all day. I think we're all more relaxed here in general. Maybe we've down-graded in size, but we don't feel it. We weren't using half of our last house, so it feels like an upgrade to us because we use every room here. We gave up a yard, but Sassy seems deeply satisfied to go on her daily walks.
All the work, all the stress, all the tension...it was all leading to this. And now we're here. It was all worth it, as awful as it was at times. Even though we no longer have any spare guest rooms, our home is open and welcome to visitors. And if you want to spend the night, the living room is all yours and we'd love to have you! :)
It's done. It's finished. Our proceeds check is in the bank. The house on Water Street is no longer our problem. I can't believe it. This is weird. I think the world looks a little more colorful now. I feel lighter. I feel happier. No more sump pumps, no more staying up all night every time it rains, no more constant worrying, no more flooding! It is a miracle that we sold that house. Well, a miracle we had to work really hard towards, but a miracle nonetheless.
It looks like we'll probably take possession of the townhome tomorrow, which would give us the weekend to move. We are very excited to start this new chapter of our lives. It's taking everything we have to put together the downpayment, but we're proud of where we are and how far we have come these past 15 months. We're so excited to get Topher into a home we feel is safe.
We drove by the old house (haha, it's already our "old house") last night and saw the new owners moving in. It was bizarre to see other people in there, streaming from room to room, looking for light switches and arranging their furniture. We also said goodbye to our best neighbors, Heather & Justin and their kids Elijah & Ariela. We're really going to miss you guys but we won't be far away and we'll visit often!! We're going to miss watching Heather redecorate and Justin figuring out how to work the new lawn mower. We'll miss the kids swimming in the pool with their turtle and rescuing the dog when she wiggles out of the fence. :)
Even though we're going to be broke for a little while, we know we are doing the right thing. We have a conventional loan with a low rate, and we're setting ourselves up to be able to put away savings on a monthly basis. I'm so grateful to be at this point. I'm so grateful to be rid of that Cambridge house. I'm totally overwhelmed today with a sense of relief. I think this calls for a Cheesecake Factory celebration (which we can afford, because we have a gift certificate, lol.)
Also, Mat and Angie helped us move out of our house on Labor Day (so fitting, right?) and we couldn't have done it without them. We love you guys, and thank you so much for spending your vacation helping us. Topher loves his giraffe, and he loves both of you, which I think says a lot about the kind of people you are because he's a tough critic. :)
And now we can focus on the things that really matter (i.e. my birthday in 2 days, haha!!!) Hope everyone has a GREAT weekend. I know we will. WE'RE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Haha, we're soooo close to being out of this house. The buyer's loan has been approved and now they are just waiting for a final stamp from someone at the USDA. Our closing date should be either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. So we are using the long Labor Day weekend to move out. It's hard to believe that it's happening. I don't think I'll really believe it until I have that big fat check in my hand (which will promptly disappear into the down-payment on our new home) and we hand our keys over for the last time.
I can't wait. This past week has been extremely stressful because the buyer's bank has been terrible. They kept promising us a final answer by a certain deadline and we would count the minutes to that deadline and then we wouldn't hear a single word. Then they would just set a new deadline and it would all start over again. But we have the answer now. Even if it came a few days later than we were hoping for. And even though it has pushed back the closing on the townhome by a couple days, we can't help but be happy and grateful. We look around our street, where several properties are for sale (there's the house right next door to us that is enter-at-your-own-risk and the house right across the street from us that is way overpriced) and we see that we are the only ones with a SOLD sign. It feels good. It feels unbelievable.
Here's to our last couple nights in this house. Sayonara, Water Street (we will not miss the obvious flood jokes associated with our address, by the way)!!!!