November 26, 2014

#holidaysR4 with Schoola


I remember most specifically a dress of red velvet. Crushed red velvet. I couldn't wait to wear it at Christmas, so I wore it to Thanksgiving dinner (because the newer "Miracle on 34th Street" has always been my favorite, and Mara Wilson had a dress sort of like it and she dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner. So.) Thus the Christmas dress was born into my mind, and henceforth a necessity, first for me, and then for my darlings. Maybe I did it unintentionally once I reached adulthood, but looking back at those Christmas parties, there always was a special Christmas dress.

I suppose, honestly, that my love for clothes has been a struggle for me. I tend toward the luxurious and expensive, even if it's just a stupid gray sweatshirt--and I feel badly about that. But I want it to seem special when I put it on. Maybe this is why--maybe because I can remember my life in the pretty dresses that I wore, and what it meant to feel like a princess while making a memory that would become a cherished one. That's really what holidays are for, yes? For the memories. For all the things that make up those memories: your babies' squeals at the twinkling lights, the smell of mom's Russian tea balls fresh out of the oven, the warmth of the fire burning all day long, and how, when you call those things up from the back corners of your mind, you can almost relive the moment it's so precious and vivid.

That's what a crushed red velvet dress did for me, as silly as it sounds; and though it's a rather indulgent and materialistic mechanism, I suspect my sartorial decisions will always do this for me. And I'm probably not the only one hard on myself about something like this, which is why it's so wonderful to find a way to make those fashion-conscious choices count. 

For this, I love Schoola, which is a new way to secondhand shop. Since moving to New York, I've become nearly reliant upon online shopping (groceries, beauty products, cleaners--you name it, I'm ordering online). Who would have thought you can thrift online too? Schoola offers new and gently used kids clothes, shoes, and accessories at a discounted price. (Everything pictured above I found on the site recently, perfect for your own little girl's Christmas dress memory, I think!) This makes it the economically-wise and environmentally-friendly option; but what's more, Schoola gives back. Each item purchased benefits a specific school program, enhancing not just a child's special memory, but another child's education. Money pretty well spent, I'd say. (Learn more about how Schoola works here.)

In an effort to foster these special memories, Schoola is inviting my readers to write about their own memories! You can submit your stories with the hashtag #HolidaysR4, and you'll be automatically entered to win one of three $25 gift cards Schoola is giving away each week until Christmas! And wait! There's more! Try your luck at the giveaway, sure. But if you see something cute on the Schoola site, snatch it up before it's gone! My readers will get 25% off their first purchase simply by entering the code TRYSCHOOLA at checkout. 

This is a wonderful way to make your holiday extra special, to find something precious for your little one without spending big bucks, and to turn all of that hustle-and-bustle into something that really matters for someone other than yourself. A happy holiday indeed! 

I am required by law to disclose that this post was written in partnership with Schoola. All links to the site are affiliate links, and I may make a small commission on purchases made through associated links. All opinions are my own.

November 18, 2014

Maryland






I remember driving to Iowa in the night, nothing but an expanse of cornfields before us, and even that I couldn't see. It was dark and perfect for viewing the star-dotted skies that I marvel to think of now, living in a place built up so the stars are drowned out. I played this game to entertain myself during the drive: I would squint my eyes almost shut, blurring all the headlights of cars passing into spotlight-like beams, and then I would tilt back and forth to move them around like the spots they use to pull you into some important event--or a used car sale at least. These drives were always quiet, except for maybe some jazz on the radio because my dad was the only other one awake. Sometimes he would look at me in the rearview mirror, always expecting me to be up too, and he would wink at me for just a second before he put his eyes back to the road. We never really spoke, but even then I think I felt like we shared something of a road warrior soul. 

And when I met Trevor, he had this in him--this Kerouacian determination to hit the road and be in it for the long-haul. Because there always is a destination, I suppose; but for those of us road warriors, just to be going is really the thrill. So maybe the girls will love it, or maybe they won't; but either way, a road trip is something they'll grow up knowing. Probably even more so now, our new home seemingly close to a thousand destinations compared to the desert isolation we'd come to know living in the west. 

Here, in just six short hours, you can almost forget there is a place like New York City and get lost in the winding roads and trees of, say, Maryland, for instance. You can rent a tiny cabin with a wood-burning stove and a treehouse and tire swing out front. Deer greet you at the windows in the morning, little afraid of the pleasant, slow-paced nature that envelopes guests to such a rustic, calm space. You can just be for a day or two. Eat a s'more. Teach a kid what a s'more is, for Pete's sake. There the air was crisp and cold and we saw our first snow. But you know, there is nothing quite like the warmness that comes with a fire in a stove heating a living room. It's a warmness summer only dreams of because it is welcome and loving, like a hug or a blanket. 

Our stay in Maryland was short and rather uneventful, but even as we pulled down that gravel driveway, leaving the cabin in our dust, I relished the coming trip home too. We wound around a lake and through mansions that have stood for decades, likely. We peeked down into valleys, speckled by the shadows of clouds and where the sun seemed always to shine on little white churches. We talked of such things and other things while the babies slept, and we sneaked some milkshakes for the grown-ups, courtesy of a sketchy convenience store somewhere outside of Pennsylvania. 

Soon enough, the city came into view; and it's not quite a sky full of stars, but it sure is a city full of lights. I turned around to see Iris awake and taking in the view. I winked at her, without a word, before turning back to face the open road.

November 16, 2014

500


He told me something about the country.

"Do you miss it?" I asked.

"Sometimes," he said.

"I could live in the country maybe."

"You would go crazy."

"I might not! I don't know. I get confused, like I have too many personalities or something."

I watched the thick woods whiz by, spotting cabins tucked behind trees, then suddenly startled by the gaps that lent views of valleys dotted by red barns and tiny white-steepled churches. I thought about how I really could live just like that, but how it would just have to be a different version of me. 

"I don't know. Maybe I want to live 500 different lives," I said, half to myself.

I saw him shrug his shoulders. "Okay," he said. "Let's do it. One at a time."

November 12, 2014

Doc McStuffins


You all know how important birthdays are to me. I love my own, weirdly so for an adult, yes. But oh how I love a day to celebrate someone I love in this life. I love excuses for excess and sparkles and extra sugar, for presents and friends and squeals. I was worried about what it might look like for Edi, having just moved to this new place and trying to establish ourselves. Could I give her the big hurrah I'm always trying for with a birthday celebration?! So I can't write about my baby girl's birthday without beaming over the community we have so quickly found in Brooklyn. It's a blessing that can't really be captured with words, to have found so many to love my little ones so well. It was a wild and crazy celebration indeed, and I wouldn't have had it any other way!



We had been talking to Edith about her upcoming birthday for a few weeks, though she still couldn't fathom that "a birthday" was anything more than just the cake. If it had only been that, she would have been satisfied; she truly loved her pink Doc McStuffins cake (and thank God, because I wasn't sure I could be too creative with a request for Doc McStuffins, who is not as easily DIY recreated as, say, Minnie Mouse or Cookie Monster).

Edi, Edi, Edi Mae!
You turned two on Sunday!

Every year, on my girls' birthdays, I like to take some time to think over the year. I consider how they have grown, how I have grown, and, most importantly, what I think sums up what we had together in that year of their lives. There has been change and fun and joy and wonder; and as I thought about all of those themes and what this year's might be, I realized that as if to sum it all up, this year, Edith brought an incredible presentness into our family.

It's tough being the second child, I bet. I don't know. I came first, and so did Trevor. I try to imagine what it would have been like to have been born somewhere else in line, with someone else ahead of me doing things first, making first impressions, setting the pace for life. But on this side of things, as a parent, having a second child is a really pretty incredible thing. Yes, Iris has taught me so much and we've blazed this trail together. We excitedly moved from milestone to milestone like we couldn't grasp on to each one fast enough. 


But oh, Edi girl, don't you let that worry you ever. You have given to me something I'm always so desperately seeking: presentness. In each moment of your life, I've so peacefully realized, "This is now. There is no need to rush." Some of this comes from having done it before. This is how I have changed, it's what I have brought to the mix. I have learned to not push growth and to focus on the season.

Most of this is your nature though. You'll climb into my lap even still, laying your chubby cheek on my chest, running your hand through my hair. We'll sit like this for a length of time that never ceases to amaze me--just you and me and that moment. I will rock and hum and squeeze all the baby that's still in you, and I can have those precious moments without worry or need for what comes next. And you love being my baby. Together, we simply are. What a gift that is, sweet girl!

Happy birthday! We love you!

November 11, 2014

Home, Part 2


I've been on the edge lately. (You know how I get on the edges of things.) I'm completely aware that it's happening, and yet not able (or not willing?) to stop it; and so, it can be a few hours or a few days, or sometimes, sadly, in this case, a few weeks of feeling...well, sad, for lack of the right word. Then there you have it: I sob over a picture of Roscoe. I well up seeing our old green couch on Instagram, perfectly happy in its new home. I watch videos of memories and parties and songs sung in that squeaky little house. And as these little details seemed severe and profoundly sad, I begin to worry that we have done a terrible, awful thing. 

This was different than mourning closing a chapter of life. Because you do that. You move from one thing to the next; and I, for one, tend to allow myself during these transitions the fullest grief necessary. No, this was more like a sadness and maybe an anger at myself because I want to be happy living here in this place I love and can't understand why I'm suddenly not all the way that? It's just so abruptly hitting me, the loss of novelty and confrontation of a real life lived here. Also I wanted to realize what I had back there in that life when I had it. Because did I? 

"Sarah, you're so wasteful!" was the next basic train of thought. You see, before we moved to New York, I was just convinced that life had become hard enough or decidedly unlike our expectations enough to merit calling myself "unhappy." I worry that because of these chunks of time where I sort of fade into -- (what are we calling this?), I'm robbed of the happiness that should be mine. This is your basic lack of presentness. I worry I'm not present enough in the present; then future me scolds past me for not being present then while simultaneously not being present now. Follow?

I make bad choices in my weepy states because as morbid as it sounds, sometimes it feels good to feed the feeling. So I read all of my old life essays, mostly notes about the things we did in Denver and how much we loved it. I realized we weren't unhappy at all, and in fact life was really full. (I became very grateful for that decision I made to record the sweetest and purest of life's happiness.) But I read all of that in the wrong mental state, and so it was just more fear of wasting, more concern that we'd tossed all the good away and a refusal to admit all that we've lived here that has already been so good and everything the real core of me craves.

This post in particular hit me hard because it was just this picture of traveling through time: us as kids and then us with kids and musings for the part that came next. I think mostly it described the level of comfort and familiarity that comes with nearly seven years of young life somewhere--and while that seems mundane when you're in it, it is also quite necessary for the soul and growing up. That was the real joy in driving by the old ivy-covered apartment and in seeing the lights on the Channel 7 building, traditions that we won't uphold for the first time in many years this year but were ours nonetheless.




My friend Belle invited me to the Bugaboo by Diesel event last week; and when you get invited to these things, you go, because you've spent years reading about them on blogs and, like, wow! I can be there now? It was lively and I drank a sour pink cocktail and met some editors and schmoozed with familiar faces, and then we left. And Belle said, "Let's find a diner!" This was in Midtown and we walked through all these old stately, ornate buildings. We talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas in New York and Belle was wearing her big fur coat and it all felt so remarkably like a movie. I got a little butterfly in my stomach, one that I hadn't been feeling for New York in my few weeks of sadness, and I begged it flap its wings a little faster so that I could really feel the excitement once more! We drank cappuccinos and ate cheesecake and looked at the pictures of old stars on the walls. We flagged cabs home, and, as an aside, mine took me on the worst cab ride of my life, which I survived, and so I think my New Yorker status grew three sizes that night. If you're wanting to be romantic for New York, Belle is always your girl.

I was way uptown by then, and that ride back to Brooklyn is rather lengthy. I slouched into my seat and rolled down the window because, for some reason, when I'm in a cab, it feels right to have cold wind in my face. I craned my neck to look up, up, up at those buildings, encircled by some magical mist and I nurtured those movie feelings from earlier. I perked up when I realized that we were going to go through Grand Central--there's a roadway for cabs, and once, when we first moved here and took the girls to see the trains and eat Shake Shack, Trev had driven down this road by mistake and we found ourselves skipping over regular traffic along with a mob of yellow taxis. 

Then I cried again. This time I wasn't sad! I was happy! We are just a few months in, and there I was, recalling funny stories and memories of us here together and in it. From here on out, every time we pass Grand Central, when I take the girls there on a train trip or when we're showing off my favorite spot to tourist friends, I'll say, "And this one time..." It was such a simple thing, but it stirred my heart in a way that New York butterflies could never aspire to do. Yes, this place is magic; but my heart knows where it belongs. Sarah, my dear, you are not a waster! You can hold those precious years in Denver in the highest regard and be thankful for what they were, and you can love this new place fully because you are where you belong and you are with your people

So often I slight myself simply by thinking too much. This is an observation I freely dole out to those seeking my advice (or not); but maybe I feel it's my right to overthink because I'm a writer and a storyteller and so it goes with the territory? But I'm tired of these self-accusations that I'm not good enough or in it enough or keeping everyone else happy enough or, heck, keeping myself happy enough! This is it. This is where we are! I did love it there, even if not all the time; and I'll love it here and I will commit myself to that and see the beauty in it! What we had there was familiar, and we will have that here too. Just as sure as I knew where I was from Grand Central Station to my house and as I've gotten to the point of bumping into friends on the sidewalk home from the park, I will feel at home here. Suddenly all the sadness felt so silly because, my love, he brought me here and he made my dreams come true. He is making memories with me wherever we go and we've got a whole lifetime to keep doing that. Sure there are a million other things I could drag into the picture--considerations, exceptions, worries, and the like; but why, when that's the only picture I ever cared about seeing? Me and him, and that's it. Us. And then everything else. 




Mondays are now busy days for us because Iris goes to school. It's fun and grounding for her, and I have this sweet time with Edi. I was coming down (up?) from all these overly-emotional weeks and I felt tired, a bit rattled maybe. "Let's walk!" I said to Edi, and she looked at the stroller and said, "I walk too!" So I pushed an empty stroller and she wrapped her chubby hand around my finger, and we walked down the slope with no schedule or agenda. Edi had her little Hello, Kitty camera and she kept pausing to "take pictures" of brownstones I pointed out to her or the flowers still in bloom. I was moved by the colors of neon red leaves dotting the concrete steps of brick buildings with shiny lacquered doors, because as much as I am missing the Rockies and the consistent sunshine, and odd as it is, it's just fact that these are the things that move me. 

I smiled at the thought of the story I would tell to Edith some day: "One day, you and Mommy held hands and walked down this block. We saw that light blue house, number 515, and I told you it was my dream home. We spied through garden level windows and saw big backyards and crunched fallen leaves and softly touched purple-petaled flowers that were standing strong against the cold. That was the moment that I knew everything would be okay. I knew we were going to love it here, just like we could love any other place, because I had your hand in mine and later you would have yours in Iris's and that night I could put mine in Daddy's, and that is all that matters in this world."