Extra dogs, extra kids, caves, haunted hotels, birthdays, tree swings, outdoor movies, and picking beans.
I'm not ready for the first of August. I'm not ready for school and the commute. I'm not ready for my daily routine to change again. I would really prefer to press pause on these days right here. Stay still and make it last a whole lot longer.
Mae has begun scaling one of the gigantic pine trees - all spurred when she climbed up to hang her new tree swing herself. She's become a regular adventurer this summer. And her new pink hair suits her quite nicely. Alizah's other little sister from her dad's house stayed a week with us, the neighbor's kid got swept off to the caves with us, and we dog-sat three dogs from two different homes. It was a busy one and even having the dog count whittled back down to the regular three, I'm really drowning in dog hair, like, it's making it hard for me to live life because there is just dog hair... everywhere... all the time.
July is also the most insane birthday month for us. My bio dad, grandmama, hubbie, and mama-in-law all round another year this month and it's a series of landmines. As we all age, those birthdays change in mood and become less celebratory. And then, as with my gran, the become gradually more celebratory as we praise another year spent with her. The girls and I got into a conversation about aging as we do - you know, with siblings, how old will I be when you're *this* age? - and the girls realized that next year they'll be 13 and 18 which is going to be tough on this mama. And then when Alizah is 21? Mae said - I'll be 16! Wow, another tough one for mama... all of those landmark ages that mean something - first year as a teen, first year as an adult, sweet sixteen, and legal drinking age. I told Alizah that's it - after 21 there are no big landmark ages that you look forward to. I didn't say it, but in that moment I let my mind navigate what that meant - how it becomes more of the same, hurdling toward 30 and realizing each decade will fly past faster than the last. Always looking back and forward again, reminiscing about the growing pains of youth and ticking forward to more grey hairs, more sagging skin, more retrospect and contentment if you're lucky.
Sometimes I think about the young mother that had that tiny baby and a massive amount of uneasiness about being so inexperienced, so alone, so inadequate. She was a delicate thing but she transformed. I'm now one of those moms of big kids who run wildly past the little ones without a glance, nearly spinning them off their heels. I'm gearing up to be the mom of an adult. Big stuff.
Amidst the big stuff, there's little stuff, too. Mae and I became best friends this summer for one. She has always been the difficult one, you know? The one that never listened and kicked up and proper shit storm if anything didn't go exactly according to her plan which made living with her a moderate nightmare for years. We loved her, in a painfully massive way, but she required patience and time. The past year has been a good one for us. We've become much closer and the bubble she existed in crumbled. She lets us in now and that gives us an opportunity to connect with her in a whole new way. Speaking of Mae and how far she's come, I wrote up a piece for the HabitAware blog this month that's a back-to-school article about our experiences with Mae's Trichotillomania and how we get the school involved. There's also a fair amount about self-care as a parent of a child with a BFRB, but of course I don't tackle self-care like most other people! I'll write more about that with links when the blog post goes live. You can probably see just how far she has come by the tiny spot at her hairline in the above picture. For us, that tiny spot that has been pulled to the diameter of a quarter, then shrunk and re-pulled, becoming a constant gauge of her progress and right now, the growth is tremendous.
And even smaller than the little stuff, I've sunk back into the depths of my Italian lessons. I felt like even practicing daily via all of the free methods out there - podcasts, duolingo, etc, I wasn't getting to a point where I could retrieve words and phrases from memory let alone speak with the nuances of a new language. I studied Spanish for years, and even though it has served me in navigating another romance language, I had mastered those vowels and inflections for Spanish.... and they are not the same for Italian. One of these days I'll get that soft e-a ending in Italian rather than pulling a long eeee as I would in Spanish. Really, all of the vowels are softer, rounder, less strained. So, I downloaded some audio lessons from Pimsleur. Even though I'm starting back at Italian basics, I do notice a difference already. Pronunciation being the most pronounced change, but also being able to pull the words out when I want them - accessing the information I've stored is suddenly possible. AND I'm trying not to drive hubs crazy with all of my mutterings in Italian!
I think I've probably rambled on about this before, so excuse the repetition... I just keep feeling pulled back into learning this language because I feel like we were cheated out of it when our family decided to raise their children American and left the old language back in the old country. It's a tether to our roots. And shallow roots at that! The family hasn't been here for long, but only a couple generations makes a huge difference. My baby cousin and his girlfriend went to Italy this summer and just returned. I was so happy he went and was totally jealous but I told him to swing through Caserta if at all possible since that's where are grandparents were born, raised, and wed before coming to the US. My dad is in Italy regularly now that he's working on an Italian race team and I gave him a wink, wink, like you know your girls wouldn't mind a trip to Italy, too! I don't know how interesting it would be sitting at a racetrack all day - I did enough of that as a kid. Blah.
On to the crown jewel story of the month: How Mae and Alizah saved me from a knitting circle! To my surprise, they said they wanted to accompany me to a knit night at a local yarn shop. I don't go to knit nights (or yarn shops actually) and sometimes I wonder if people think I'm being overly dramatic when I say I'm a hermit. The fact is, I am the ultimate home-body person and I have a negative physical response to attention when all eyes are on me. This is why I stopped teaching knitting classes. I would spend the next day or two sick with migraines after spending a couple of hours at the helm of a classroom. Knit night was basically a huge disaster and it probably would have been worse had my girls decided not to join me. As I later described it to my sister-in-law, it will be know as the great knit night disaster of '18. You're wondering what on earth could go wrong in a knitting circle, right? Okay. Nothing went wrong during the knitting. Nothing went wrong during the talking. I'm actually very, very at home knitting and talking in small groups where everyone is just going on about this and that. I felt a bit tingly when they all started talking about "Fringe Association" and this "Field Bag" they have as if it's all some sort of abstraction. I was thinking about Karen and how sweet she is and how far she's come in the past few years toward fulfilling her dream and starting Fringe. But those are the weird things that make me feel disconnected from the rest of the knitting world, I guess. It was when I felt just comfortable enough and everyone was packing up to leave that I mentioned that I'm a good knitting problem solver - I do write patterns after all and in the midst of my second book - which suddenly brought all of the attention on me. What? Knitting books? Do you have a Ravelry? What's your last name? And I kid you not, it was like a scene from a movie where our protagonist begins freaking out and the crowd begins closing in with all of their eyes wide, penetrating even as the room begins to spin and everything goes black. The room really began spinning. My mouth went so dry that my tongue stuck tightly to the roof of my mouth. Mae replied, "Spainhower" and spelled it out for me. "Yes, I have a Ravelry, I ... my anxiety ... uh ... " I could tell that the mood shifted in an instant as they all looked a bit concerned and then quietly began to disperse while saying kind things like, "You should definitely come back! We don't normally bombard people like this, we just got excited." My girls led me out the door and I thanked the group for having us as we passed by. Mae put her arm around my waist and Alizah asked if I was okay as we hobbled down the ramp, then Mae said my face looked like I had just seen a ghost.
My sister-in-law said, "I take it you don't want me to get you a spot on channel 8 to promote your next book?" I will pass out on live TV, people. I don't know what the deal is with my social anxiety in regard to knitting or, I guess talking about knit design. Hubs says I'm crazy and not in a playful way but in a seriously way. And all of those ladies were really great! They were funny and the conversation was robust, roaring, snapping fun, and I felt fine among them... until I didn't and swore to never return. My boy bff, Carl, says I have to either go back and face those knitting ladies or become Emily Dickinson. He also says I should have a drink to calm my nerves before I go and that's the best advice I've gotten yet! Honestly though, this has been getting increasingly worse over the past few years and it's not something I've shared. That's sort of what Between Stitches has been all about for me though - getting all of that stuff out that isn't photogenic and social media share-worthy... the real stuff, the human stuff, the embarrassing-ugly-yucky stuff.
SO, I am going to keep trying. I'm going to press on and try to regain control over this bazaar aversion to real life interactions with knitters because I do have another book that's going to come out and I would really like to be able to talk about it without falling out. I would like to be able to promote it and do interviews and go to events and sign copies. I need to get there. One year and counting to control.