Dining Out

Last night my parents took us out to a very nice restaurant for dinner. Going out to a fast food joint with the boys makes me anxious. So as much as I was looking forward to a really delicious meal, I was a wee bit worried (by which I mean my stomach was clenched in fear) about the behavior of the two young men in my life.

Sometimes those boys surprise me. Ok, so Z took C for a quick walk outside before the meal came, and Z and I tag teamed the two mid-meal trips to the bathroom. But other than that it was smooth sailing. Star Wars stickers worked their magic yet again.

Near the end of the meal a friend of my parent’s walked by the table. She has young grandchildren, so she bent down to chat with T. He is a bit of a rambler when he gets going and dude was on a tear. “Do you know what? Well, tomorrow is going to be me and Charlie’s birthday. But, but, but…tomorrow isn’t really me and Charlie’s birthday. But we get our birthday with Grandma and Grandpa tomorrow. And we are, um, we are, uhhh, we are going to have presents. And a cake. I want a….Star Wars Angry Bird cake. And we are getting presents! I want Star Wars legos. I want a Chewbacca figure. I saw it at the Lego store. The Chewbacca figure, well, it has a slot, not a put on head. Like the Gamorrean guard. They are the only two with a slot, not a put on head. But we already have the Gamorrean guard. And I want a big Star Wars Angry Birds play set. A big one.”

This lovely woman was a total sport. She just let him talk and murmured little hmmms and yeses at all the right places.

T paused for a second, took a deep breath, and looked her square in the face.

“I just farted.”

He is totally my child.

T in the pool

Loving the pool with Daddy. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith Photography.

popsicle love at floyd fest

T and Z went to Floyd Fest. First music festival for T.

playing at Floyd fest

He had a really good time.



Saturday was supposed to be my long run. It was 9 degrees when I got up, the forecasted high was 18. Z suggested I wait until the afternoon and I had no trouble agreeing with him. Problem was the snow began by the time it was a balmy 14 degrees and I was ready to go.

pre Saturday

Suited up.

It was stupid and dangerous and terrifying and slow. I did 2.3 miles yelling at myself the whole way that if I got hit by a car it would be my own damn fault. That bitch Anxiety was back. She told me if I didn’t run something terrible would happen. The sane part of me told myself if I did run something terrible might happen. Crazy won.

post Saturday

And I was a fucking mess by the time I finished.

Over the weekend one of my smartest friends told me if I increased the the incline a bit on the treadmill that I’d get closer to my natural stride. I took her advice to the Y on Monday (thanks J) and managed to jog two very slow miles. Damn, is it hard to jog on a treadmill. But they were safe and snow free miles.

SU does a great job keeping the campus plowed, so today I tried South Campus for the jog. It was early enough that the roads were still a mess. I basically chased snowplows, or they chased me. It was 10 degrees and snowing. It felt good to be out there even if one of the miles was more than 12 minutes. Running in snow is like running in sand. It is a whole body workout.

Jogging in winter. I’m figuring it out. I want to figure it out. Mostly I’m biding my time till spring. But I’m sticking with this thing even if it scares me to say it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging a lot. How if I’m going at a slow pace I feel like I can just keep on going forever. How I haven’t stopped to walk since the first time I did 5 miles on November 16th. I learned when I feel like I can’t go on now to just slow down a bit. I’m figuring out these little tricks. Coming up with a training routine on my own that changes things up, speed, hills, medium run, long run.

It is still hard. I have to force myself out of the door. I get disappointed when the snow or the treadmill affects my time in such a major way. I beat myself up when I have a bad run. But I’m going to try and stay healthy. I’m going to keep at it.

I’ve been thinking about jogging and time and my birthday and the fact that I’m 37 on Wednesday and that 40 nearly has me surrounded. A year ago right now I couldn’t jog for two blocks. Now I can go for 5.3 miles. This time of year is naturally a time for reflection. Every year I turn to Z and ask what he thinks we will be doing and where we will be in a year.  Life is full of surprises, wonderful and heartbreaking. This year I am focusing on the good- I learned that the impossible is possible. I learned no matter how many times I swore up and down that I could never exercise regularly that it was a big lie. I can make myself do hard stuff.

The other night we were sitting on the sofa after dinner. “I’ve been having a tiny little thought.” I told Z. “Hmm?” he replied. “Now, I get that this is crazy. But what if I were to try and run a marathon before I turned 40?”

Z looked at me like I was an injured bird he found on the sidewalk. He clearly didn’t want to spook me. “I think that is an excellent idea.” he said very soothingly. “I think you can do it.” He paused, terrified he was going to say the wrong thing. “Maybe this summer you could do a half marathon first and then do a full one.”

“Um. Totally. I’d have to start with a half.” He was visibly relieved that I wasn’t going to try and force my way through 26.2 miles in March.

Starting tomorrow I have three years. Before December 18th of 2016 I will run a marathon. There. I’m being bold and outrageous and reckless. I will run a marathon. And you can hold me to it.

bye daddy

Waving goodbye to Daddy on a snowy morning.

snow boat treehouse

The boat treehouse looked lovely dressed up in snow this morning.

Birthday Countdown

The boys are at Wegmans. I’m rather buzzed (post sledding hot toddy and cider with dinner. Yes, I’m a cheap date) and blissfully home alone. Z let me sleep in until I woke up both mornings this weekend.

He is being fucking amazing because rather than spend the upcoming week with us he has to work. We really need the money, it is super good he is working. But it was a hard trade off. It was supposed to be family time. I mean, it sucks ass for him as well.

He is also being fucking amazing because my birthday is on Wednesday. I love birthdays. Not just mine, the day of birth of anyone who I care about is an event to me. Celebrating is fun, cakes are delicious, presents are the best. What is not to love?

Z doesn’t give a shit about birthdays. His, mine, the boys’, anyone’s.

Which means he is terrified of my birthday. I get it. I’m scary. And I have unarticulated and extravagant expectations.

We looked at our “finances” (I use air quotes because you can’t call that little money finances with a straight face) the other day. He told me that he had been planning to get me something very expensive that I wanted really badly for my birthday/Christmas, but it would be irresponsible and he couldn’t do it. He’s 100% right. We are broke. I don’t get whatever I want just because I want it. I’m a grown up.

Still, I’m not going to lie. I was a bit bummed.

This Wegman’s trip the fellows are on is about my birthday. And evidently T has orchestrated it. That kid. I have no idea what his plans are. For once he’s been able to keep his ginormous trap shut. I hope he makes it to Wednesday without spilling the beans.

Maybe I’m growing up a little bit, but I’ll tell you what. I’m fucking excited about the Wegman’s present. So I don’t get the fancy thing I wanted. My kid is old enough to plot with his Dad to get something for me. That is pretty magnificent.

this face

Man, do I love this boy.

jack frost

Jack Frost visited this weekend. It is so cold in our house. So very cold. 80+ year old windows are not the way to go.


Who knows? It might get bright enough to need sunglasses at any moment!

Goodbye Hat

Five December 18ths ago I turned 31. Unbeknownst to me I was pregnant with T. On that day Z and I went out to eat and ended up in downtown Providence at a pop up craft show for the holidays. It was there I spotted it-the hat I fell instantly and deeply in love with. Z was dubious. Obviously he is a hat guy, but over the last decade and a half we have bought me a ton of hats that just collected dust. I wanted to be a hat person, but I didn’t have the chutzpah to pull it off. I promised Z I would wear this one and probably because it was my birthday he agreed we should get it even though it was super expensive.

cloche hat 2009

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith. Fall 2009. T about 3 months. Hat less than a year old.

This magic cloche made by hand from an old cashmere sweater with a felt flower applique made me into a hat person. It might have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 (gulp), but over the last almost five years I have worn the fucking shit out of it. We haven’t regretted the purchase for a second. I am a creature of habit. The hat works. I love it. Z loves it. The lady who works at the pharmacy at Target loves it so much she calls me the hat lady and is sad when I don’t wear it in the summer. True story. I’d be perfectly happy to wear the hat for the rest of my life.

silly cloche winter 12

Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith. Outtake of January 2012 Leonard family photoshoot. Perhaps my favorite picture of Z and me ever. Why is he trying to snack on me? Hat still going strong.

Last year I had to face facts. The hat was getting horribly stretched out. It was stained and gross and there really wasn’t a good way to clean it. It got me through the winter once again. But I knew I was going to have to do something about it.

stretched out cloche

Stretched out cloche. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

For once I was proactive. I contacted the maker via Etsy last April. By July when I noticed on FB that she was shutting her shop down for a month I got nervous and contacted her again. In September I send another email to her new website as she’d closed the etsy shop and I made one last attempt at the beginning of October. It would seem she does not want to sell me another hat. I think I should have gotten the picture by July, but I hate change and would basically do anything to get a new version of the hat that feels like a second skin to me.

This morning I left a note of utter desperation on the maker’s fb page. But it is time to face facts. The era of the magical handmade cloche is over. I am disproportionately sad about it.

I’m not linking to the maker’s page because I don’t want to be a bitch. She runs a small business and she might be overwhelmed with work. She has no obligation to sell me product. I have no desire to stir the pot of internet meanness.

And it is a silly thing. It’s just a hat. A super expensive hat that I honestly can’t afford right now. Yet as someone who doesn’t put effort into appearance (again fear-if I try to look nice and I still don’t look nice, well, I just don’t want to face that. easier to not try) it really felt like a big deal to me. For once I was making a fashion statement. The hat was saucy and cute. It took balls for me to wear it. Eventually it felt like a piece of armor. It is funny what we cling to, what helps us get through life. That damn hat made me feel like I could face the world.

Next weekend is the annual Salt Market Craft Fair in town. Last year they had hats. Fingers crossed they do again this year and I find something to replace the hat that has seen me through so much-finding out I was pregnant, moving to Syracuse, buying a house, becoming a mother, losing a pregnancy, becoming a mother again, starting school. It’s been a big five years for our family. I wonder what the next five years will bring. I need to find an amazing hat to be my armor and help me face the challenges of life. There has to be another magical hat out there. One that will be my new superhero costume. If I find it next weekend I’ll let you know.

gentle stormtrooper

All photos by Ellie Leonardsmith.

Who knew a stormtrooper could be so gentle?

falling T

Isn’t this one amazing?

jumping C

And this one?

boys on rustophone

Last spring Z was part of a sculpture show at a local art park. He build this structure, which is a bunch of huge musical instruments. Pretty amazing, huh? It’s called the Rustophone and it is what we are sitting on in the new header shot.

Happy Happy Birthday

My baby turned two today.

I wasn’t sure I wanted kids. I had no confidence in my ability to parent. Much of my 20s were lost to mental illness and a marriage that was imploding. Then things turned around. Z and I managed to find our way back to each other. He thrived at grad school I thrived working for Whole Foods. Our 30s were suddenly an excellent time. It felt new and particularly precarious. I didn’t want a kid to fuck up the balance we’d achieved. And then I accidentally got pregnant.

I was wrong. I was wrong when I thought my life would be over after having T. I was stupid and immature and selfish and wrong. T was hard work, but he brought so much love into our home. He managed to make Z and me love each other more and the love we felt for him-I am not trying to be a smug, superior parent here. I am not. But clichés exist for a reason you simply cannot comprehend the love you have for your child until you experience it. I’m not saying it is better than any other kind of love. I’m not saying I didn’t know what love was before T (I hate when parents say that-What? Folks without kids don’t know how to love? That is bullshit. Particularly ignorant and insulting bullshit). I’m not saying I love him and C more than anyone on earth. Honestly, I love Z just as much. Becoming a parent increased my capacity to love. I was hungry for another one. And it worked. When we had C my capacity increased yet again! These kids, they are like a feel good drug. I finally understand families that have a million kids.

I went from not wanting kids, to just wanting the one, to really wanting a second, to thinking we could handle a third. We cannot, it turns out, handle a third. Not financially, not lifestyle-wise, and frankly my uterus has been pretty damn undependable postpartum. There were complications with both boys and with the miscarriage.

Now C is two. We are really and truly done with the baby years. I will be weaning him this fall. My doc wants me to try some different meds and I can’t be nursing while taking them. It is the right thing for my mental health, which means it is the right thing for our family. I wanted to nurse him for two years and as of today I’ve met that goal.

But when I wean him I am done. Forever. I say goodbye to the phase of my life when I’m the mom of babies. The anxiety makes any kind of life change difficult. Hell, the anxiety makes it difficult when the body lotion I’ve used for years is discontinued. I’m scared to move on.

C and my nursing relationship has been idyllic. Do you hear that Jeff? IDYLLIC! His latch was great from the beginning and he’s never been a biter. I think we both feel emotionally recharged from the small breaks we have a couple times a day when we get to cuddle and just be together. He has always been much more physically affectionate than his big brother. When Z or I yell at him and he starts to cry his first impulse is to reach out to us so we can comfort him. Even though we are the ones yelling!

Right after T was born we got close to a family with a four year old son. That fall I remember looking at the boy and being astounded by how big and grown up he was. I simply couldn’t imagine T ever getting that old. And here T is, just a second later I swear. He is 4 and big and grown up. Shit, he’ll be going to kindergarten in a year.

A couple of weeks ago Z and I were out on a date for dinner. There was a family sitting to my left who had a boy who was about 7. I stared at him, couldn’t help it. I watched him interact with his family and I could not imagine my boys at his age. My eyes filled with tears when I realized I am going to blink and T will be that kid.

On the same night I told Z I’d donated some money we really didn’t have to a fundraiser for a boy in between the ages of our boys who was starting chemo. He is the kid of a friend of friends. I’d heard his father’s name thrown around by a group we were tight with for years. If he hadn’t moved away from Brooklyn when he did we would have known him. He was just like us. And his kid was sick.

A few days later we found out a classmate of a kid in our extended family was terminally ill. Nothing could be done for him. We were with family when we found out and someone commented, “At least all our kids are healthy.” “Yeah,” I said. “But the families of kids who get sick think their kid is healthy, too. Right up until they find out he isn’t.”

C turned 2 today and I don’t want this to turn into a post about sick kids. As of this moment we do have two healthy kids who are growing. Right now chances are good I’m going lose track of time for a moment and discover they are in high school. Them getting older? As much as it hurts it is the only outcome I desire.

I am heartbroken to leave this stage of their lives and my life behind. But you know what? In a couple of years they won’t be getting up at 5:58am every goddamn morning. And that, oh boy, that is a beautiful thing.

c and mommy celebrate

T and Z are traveling this weekend. We celebrated C’s day on Thursday. But C and I still went out and got a slice of cake today.

messy cake c

He really got into it.

2 years old

First picture taken after he officially turned two.

biter in trouble

Oh, the sulking! He tried to bite me and he was super pissed I didn’t let him.

To C, you crazy kid you, we cannot imagine our lives without you. You are fearless and brave and loving. You are frustrated and frustrating and an inconsistent sharer during the best of times. We love you, all of you. We cannot imagine life without you. Thank you for being the chronological caboose in our family train.