What It’s Like + a #tbt

When I started this blog coming up on 11 years ago, I was a mom of three little boys that were 4, 2 and newborn. This is the kind of content you got when you came here, because this was my life:

My day was filled with questions like, “Does Fredbird live at Busch Stadium?” and “Do raccoons climb trees?” and trying to get Bennett not to bite Luke and watching Toy Story a hundred billion times.

Cute, right? Oh, the memories.

Today, I renamed a text convo between all 3 boys and me “Boys” so that it would be easy to find when I need to get ahold of all of them. A couple of hours later, I got a notification that one of the boys had changed the name of our convo.

Yep. There ya go. I have nothing else for you.

Showing Up.

Remember how I wrote a book, and how it’s still in draft form on my computer? Right. Well, I have no idea if or when I’ll do something with that. So in the meantime, because I have something new to write about, I’m going to use a tiny excerpt to help tell this little story.

My sister Hayley is getting married next week! I’m so excited for her, and we all love her fiance, Matt. I’m one of two matrons of honor, but we already need to stop this story because…

…for real, who came up with matron of honor? It’s just a horrible word, matron. I feel like there’s probably some historical reason why it mattered whether your maid of honor was married or not and therefore needed/wanted a different title, but I don’t care to research it, and I’m just going to call me and my cousin Karah, the other matron of honor, MOH and leave it at that.

Anyway, back to the point, Hayley is getting married!!!

There are hundreds of details involved in planning a wedding, as anyone who has ever been closely involved in one knows. Obviously, for most brides, their mom is a huge part of the planning. And obviously for Hayley, this isn’t an option.

It is sad, planning a wedding without your mom. However, Hayley has been amazing at not hanging out inwhat if” or “I wish…” I am sure that it helps tremendously that it’s been nearly ten years since we lost our mom; we’ve gone through a whole lot of things without her here, and time does, truly, take away some of the sting. I can’t help but think this would be much harder if this was just a year after she died. But, there is no denying that we wish Mom was here to do all of those little wedding details with her.

Again, though, we aren’t dwelling there. This is a celebration, and we’re making it one. Which, of course, means that we had a shower for Hayley.

So here’s where I’ll back up and pull an excerpt from the book…

My parents met, married, and lived in my mom’s hometown. Actually, my mom lived there her whole life minus her years at Eastern Illinois University, where her roommates were even friends from home for some of the time.

My mom was soft-spoken and kind; I have to think she was pretty easy to like and befriend. She had three lifelong best friends, all girls that she had known since elementary school. Those three friends, Val, Marty and Joan, all also married men from Effingham and settled there. Naturally, the four husbands became close friends, too.

Doesn’t that sound like a movie? Even as I wrote this, I had to blink back tears thinking about how special and unique it is to have close friendships that literally span your entire life like my mom had. Those relationships impacted me both as a child who loved times when these families gathered, either to enjoy each others’ company or to help when there was a need, and again as an adult who learned so much from watching these friends spring into action when circumstances changed.

This group of friends watched their crew grow from no kids to 15. They saw each other through the births of all those babies, illnesses and deaths of some of their parents, job changes, moves to different homes. When they all had houses full of really young kids, the moms got us together for morning “coffee,” which was likely code for “we don’t see each other often enough so let’s have the kids burn some energy together so we can catch up.” The guys went fishing. These families did life together for years and years.

And when the years passed by and my mom’s biopsy revealed cancer, they didn’t walk away. Not even close.

(There’s so much more to that chapter, including information on other groups of friends and our family, but I have to get back to the wedding story…)

Hayley’s lived in the St. Louis area for well over a decade, and our dad doesn’t live in Effingham anymore, so we decided it was easiest to just have one big shower in St. Louis. In addition to our family from all over, we invited several of Mom’s lifelong friends, and our former neighbors, and Hayley’s and my boss from Homewood Grill, Mindy, who was also a good friend of Mom’s.

And they came, to celebrate Hayley. And to honor our mom, really. I didn’t think to take group pictures until it was almost too late and several people had already left, but I am so thankful that I got this one.

Val, Joan, Hayley, Mindy, Marty.

[I know that several people who wanted to attend couldn’t because of other commitments or distance, so please don’t read into this further if you couldn’t make it. I just think it’s really amazing to see friends of my mom’s show up so long after she died to help us celebrate.]

Wedding day: coming soon 🙂

inked.

When I got my second tattoo, the word courage in my mom’s handwriting on my ribs, I didn’t post it here for several months. I love my simple little tattoos, and I’d honestly love a whole bunch more. And I can deal with them not being everyone’s taste – that’s totally cool, you don’t have to get one. I don’t have much patience for people who are rude or super judgy about them, though, which is why I’ve always waited to share here.

I’m guessing you know where this is going…

A couple of weeks ago, I got a text from one of my closest friends asking me and another friend if we were available for “lunch on Friday and maybe a tattoo.” I laughed and immediately said I was in…for both.

I’d been thinking for a while about adding more of my mom’s writing to my ribs, and the timing couldn’t have been better – we were going on the Friday before Mother’s Day. On my 10th Mother’s Day without my mom. So I quickly grabbed my only writing sample of hers and decided on the other two words I’d have added to courage.

It’s all healed up now, and I am so happy with it. It’ll be a while before it blends with how settled into my skin courage is, but I’m fine with that.

And yes. It hurt, but it was totally worth it.

Driver’s Ed.

Luke, seen here as he first appeared on the blog in 2007, as a preschooler…

…is now learning to drive.

Oh. And because I didn’t blog for like a year, I forgot to post this a year ago, when he finished middle school. He’s taking his second-semester finals this week for his freshman year, so that’s cool and clearly I’m on top of documenting the big life changes around here.

he was still 1″ shorter than me in this picture a year ago (I was in heels)…he is now almost 2″ taller than me.

Ah. Also, it turns out he’s a runner. Like, a real runner. He had a great cross country season last fall, and an equally successful track season this spring, and I’m just a tiny bit proud of how dedicated he is to this. Indulge me one bragging mom/record-keeping moment to say that his 1 mile PR this season was 4:54. (Also SERIOUSLY if I don’t write something down it will NOT be remembered. #thisis40)

I couldn’t run half a mile in 4:54, by the way.

luke cross country 2

I just want to say that I’ve been trying to get him to take up running since this one cross country season 5 years ago.

His summer goal is to run 400 miles total, which sounds like absolute madness to me, but you do you, Luke.

not gonna lie…track meets are looong. but the 5 minutes your kid is actually doing something is really, really fun. xc meets, for the record, are FAR more enjoyable.

But back to the driving: guys. I don’t understand why this isn’t a standard part of the school curriculum like it was when I went to high school in Illinois, but it’s not and either we have to teach him to drive or we pay someone to do it. Currently, I’m teaching him, and he’s doing fine and gradually getting better. I can’t help but think of how much harder it is to learn to drive in the suburbs than in a tiny town like I did, so all things considered, he’s doing great. But all of the sudden, in the last several weeks with him doing more and more driving, and I’m not proud of this but it’s true, I am so sweary all the time…not like the worst swear words if we’re putting them on a spectrum but still: not good.

Close friends and family are right now saying, “Um, Nicole? You and curse words is not a new, sudden occurrence.” And I would answer that with this: you are correct. However, I have been very effective at keeping my bad-words-saying away from my children a vast majority of their lifetime…but when Luke is driving, it’s like I can’t even help it. It’s not directed at him, and I’ve been careful to clarify that with him, but it’s over seeing my life flash before my eyes repeatedly in a ten-minute span of time a couple of times a day with no recourse but to yell “THERE’S A CURB THERE!” that’s doing it to me. I’m trying to stop.

All I can think is how this is going to be so much easier with the next two boys. Right?

Reliable.

First, I had to think long and hard about how to even log in to this account to be able to write on my own blog that I used to write on multiple times a week, so I realize that no one may read this because you don’t know that I’m still here. It’s been a minute since I’ve written…but if you’re reading this, welcome. I miss writing and I’m here because I’m a little bit fired up.

it’s not rocket science, people.

I used to spend a LOT of time in coffee shops when I was writing a book (I don’t want to talk about it…it’s in draft form, begging for a revision that I already have in mind, and I’ll get to it someday but who knows when). I usually had earbuds in, but occasionally I’d grow tired of the music and instead listen to the din of noise around me. I feel like I got pretty good during that time at reading people who were there in my usual spot. Most people were pretty considerate of those around them.

Lately, when I have work to do between appointments, I sometimes settle in for an hour or two at a coffee shop. I did just that today. Again, when I’m working I generally have earbuds in, but the group of three at the table next to me was so loud that I could sometimes hear them over my music. So I had some idea of what they were talking about.

From what I gleaned, Mid-50s Lady had a small business she created (the product was on the table and you’d die laughing at how ridiculous it was, but in the interest of keeping this anonymous, I’m not going to link to it…I’ll just say that there’s something for everyone, right?). Slick-Guy-in-His-30s was self-employed, had contacts in the radio industry and does marketing-ish stuff, and she wanted him to help her get her product out there, in magazines and on the radio (and I hilariously heard him trying to explain podcasts and streaming content to her). Other Man at Table, with his back to me, was also in his late 50s, and after 90 minutes next to them, I still have no idea why he was there because he seemed clueless about both her product and marketing in general.

M50L left after a while, and the two men remained at the table. I was still listening to music, their conversation was a bit quieter, and I was just working away at writing a report I needed to get done. I took out my earbuds when I got up to refill my iced tea, and as I came back to the table, I heard Slick Guy say he was looking for a full-time graphic designer to work with him, how he had trouble retaining people, blah blah blah. He then told a quick story of a recent female employee who thought she deserved a raise, and he told Other Man at Table why she didn’t. But I left my earbuds out when I heard Other Man at Table say something to the effect of how he’d just seen a story last week about women still making 70 cents on the dollar compared to men.

“You know why, though, right? It’s because women aren’t as reliable as employees. Got a sick kid? They’ve got to go get them, and then their work doesn’t get done. That’s why they don’t get ahead. And then if they stay home with kids, they completely lose their skills.”

MMMKAY. So now you all know why we’re here on the blog today.

I shot Slick Guy a look that probably scared him because I’m positive I looked possessed. He knew I heard this. I looked back at my computer immediately, and listened to Slick Guy say something to the effect of how he could kind of understand needing to tend to kids, as he was a single dad, so he sometimes had to leave work, too, etc. Then he quickly tried to move on and wrap up their conversation and go.

In the moments I forced myself to stare at my computer instead of sharing with this gentleman what I thought of his opinion, I bit back a million words, and trust me that some 750,000 of them are not fit to publish. I side-eye glanced at the tables around me: a young woman studying her medical books; a middle-aged couple having lunch; another young woman working diligently on a spreadsheet. I decided in that moment not to let the redneck girl in me unleash a sweary tirade lest I set my fellow women back further. I forced myself not to tell him I’d taken years off to stay at home with my boys (did he have children? Who raised them?), and that I’d since gone back to work (clearly having gained NO skills while I raised children), and that I was sitting there, reliably meeting my deadlines and getting my work done while he was running his mouth and perpetuating the stereotypes that keep women from ever catching up, all while making less than I probably would if I’d just stayed in the work force all those years.

The funny conclusion to the story is that those guys left, and Other Man at Table left his coffee cup sitting there (this is a place where you clean off your own table)…y’know, cause an underpaid woman was probably going to clean it up for him. A woman did walk up to the table and asked those of us in close proximity if it was taken; the man from the couple sitting close immediately commented, “No, the man before you left it there.” My ears perked up and I looked at him, and he said, “Did you hear what he was saying? I told my wife I’d be fired if I said that about a woman. Are you here working?” I nodded, and said, “And, I’m one of those women who stayed home for years, too.”

His wife said she had, too, and then gone back to work. I told them I’d had to force myself not to respond to the loud talker. They both smiled and wished me well as they left a couple of minutes later.

Equality. It’s not really a thing just yet, friends. But keep being reliable, ok, ladies? We’re gonna get there.

So Far: Summer 2017

Is it weird that even though I haven’t blogged regularly in almost two years, my brain still thinks in terms of blog posts, of story snippets? Always.

So update on the boys since it’s been a while…Luke will be a freshman, Bennett in 7th, Jack Henry in 4th. Yes, I know. They were just babies, providing daily blog fodder with their antics and lispy voices and long eyelashes. Their not being little anymore is a major reason I don’t write here much…they don’t like much being posted to social media, and I’m definitely not going to tell their stories. (But for the record: they have approved this message.)

Parents of older kids know that at some point, you cross this threshold into basically being your kids’ Uber driver because they have very active social lives. The timing of all that works out well because by that point you’re too old and tired to have that much of a social life yourself anyway. (Also for me: back to work this year + I TURN 40 NEXT WEEK + generally bad sleeper = 10pm bedtime at the latest. We’re for real gonna be calling an Uber to pick these kids up late at night.)

Anyway. Lightning quick summer recap:

Luke went on a 9-day trip to the Tetons with a group from his middle school and had the time of his life. This kid will probably end up living near mountains. (Also, he is approximately only one inch shorter than I am.) He hikes and bikes with friends at a state park near us and laughs like a maniac at The Office and looks at Instagram a billion hours a day. His baseball season: ✔️


Bennett: trip to Springfield, MO for college baseball watching with friends, trip to Lake Geneva with his youth group, baseball practice 3 days a week + tournaments 3 out of 4 weekends a month (one tourney to go next weekend and it’s a wrap). I think he still lives here. Based on the amount of food we go through, I’m going with yes.


Also he got stung by a bee yesterday, and it is no joke. No allergic reaction, and he’s been stung lots of times before, but that must have been a serious amount of venom because this picture was 10 hours after the sting (but looks better now):


And my baby who isn’t a baby anymore (guys…he’ll be 10 in a couple of months!) is thankfully able to go with the flow. Jack Henry’s had some time with friends and a basketball camp and Jump Camp, so it’s not like he’s not having fun, but of course, the older boys’ schedules dictate his more than he’d like.

He did get to do something cool last week though. Our school district’s alumni association has a “Granting Dreams” program where students submit ideas of things they’d like to experience, small businesses they’d like to start and need seed money for, etc., and the organization arranges as many as they can. An assignment in JH’s gifted class was submitting a dream to this program…and since this was all completed at school, I didn’t even know about it until I signed paperwork saying it was fine for him to apply. His dream? To work at Krispy Kreme. This was a new one to me, but of course, I signed it. Sure, kid. Dream away.

Of course it got accepted. So last week, I took him there, and it was awesome. They made him a nametag and everything. Showed him how the process works from dough to cooked and on display, and let him make his own dozen donuts to take home.



All I know is that if I’d had this opportunity in elementary school back at home and could have scanned groceries at IGA, I would have been in heaven. (I worked retail briefly when I was about 16-17, so I did finally get to use a scanner, but really I feel like that dream came true for me several years ago when the groceries around here put in the self-checkout lanes.)

Jack Henry baseball season: one more game. Naturally, on my birthday.

Matt and the boys have started biking on trails around here lately, and minus Luke getting poison ivy pretty badly, they’re loving it!


We’re headed to the beach soon, and while the boys are excited because they love the beach as much as we do, the 40-somethings in this house are looking forward to a week of just sitting and reading and enjoying an adult beverage or three. Cheers.

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far…

Last night was conference night at the middle school. I saw teachers for both boys. 

The child referred to in this post shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. 


[Said child is obviously doing well in his math class. He’s a hard worker.]

Said child’s math teacher (who is fabulous and has control of her classroom – this is not a concern of mine) reported that she gave him a Satisfactory instead of Outstanding for citizenship because he and his best friend talk so much…like she recently explained to them, jokingly, what “cut the cord” meant. 

I cracked up because this is atypical for this child. I also told the math teacher that while I support whatever she needs to do to make class manageable, and that I will discourage the talking, it deep down makes me *so happy* that said child has such a good friend (a few, actually) because he could not always say this. 

Also. 0% of my former teachers would be surprised to hear that one of my offspring talks too much in class. Sooooo there’s that.