Friday, October 29, 2010


Let's go back in time for a moment. Think back to the place in your life when you finally felt real FREEDOM. Maybe it was the freedom to make your own money when you graduated college. The freedom to move to a new town and choose new friends. The freedom to stay up as late as you wanted (and sleep in as late as you wanted). The freedom to be by yourself and not be accountable to anyone. The freedom to know that you are fully capable of making your own decisions and handling your life as you please.
But with freedom comes responsibility. In high school my mom woke me every morning banging pots and pans or vacuuming, so I can remember the first week of college finally experiencing what it was like to stay out all night drinking and then sleep in the next day. And then I learned what it felt like to struggle through what classes I did bother making it to and then try to keep my stamina up while kicking in dance practice for two hours. I quickly learned that in order to have some freedom I still needed to learn how to balance work and play . . . and I learned I indeed didn't have the freedom to do what I really wanted to do, which was play.
Ah, herein lies the dilema. How do we balance the two? I need to know because there isn't much balance for me right now. Honestly, I should have more freedom than I've ever had in my life. I'm not in school, I'm not working, and I live in a town where I am not yet a member of a church, a social club, or a volunteer group. There are no close family or friends around that might need my help. Basically no one expects anything out of me.
That is, no one except these guys.
First of all, we have Mimi. Whew. She takes my breath away. Literally. I am so tired after wrestling with her and chasing her and disciplining her. And keeping her fed and happy and not tearing the house and the dog apart. I've found the only time I have freedom with her is when I turn on the TV. Needless to say, the TV stays on way too much. And then she learns things from TV like how to say, "No way. Get away. I'm mad." Thank you, Kai-Lan. We will no longer be watching you and your bratty little friend Ho Ho. What kind of name is that anyway? I can't take a shower in the morning if she is already awake and Clint is leaving because she will climb in the bathtub and turn on the water or eat dog food or put sharp objects in Mack's crib. I can't even think about making my coffee until she has a dry diaper, a banana with a cereal bar and milk at her high chair, and something to entertain her (usually the stupid TV). And then by the time I have my coffee made and breakfast ready, she is already into something messy and dangerous. I can't have a phone conversation while she's awake because as soon as I'm not paying attention to her she decides to push another child at the park, pull Ruthie's hair and legs, or knock over a lamp. So many days I do not have the freedom to eat, shower, or talk to another adult.
Then we move on the the lower maintenance child, Mack. As long as he's fed, he's fine. But he sure does like to be fed. Like, all the time. We had his 2 month check-up today, and baby brother weighs 12lb 9oz. He's in the 75 percentile for weight -- Mimi was always in the 10th -- so this blows my mind . . . but not really because I know how often he is hungry. But as all parents of newborns know, the entire day revolves around feeding the little one. Figuring out when he ate the last time and how long I can shop in Target before he completely loses it. When I can go to the park and how long I can stay. What time I can finally go to sleep and how long until he wakes up to want to be fed again. He eats and then I try to walk a couple of blocks by myself to buy wine, and Clint is calling me telling me he's gnawing his fist crying because he's very hungry. Mack knows when I have found 5 minutes of freedom -- he senses this . . . and then he decides he's starving.
And the lowest on the totem pole, Ruthie. She's the oldest child, but is treated like the red-headed stepchild, poor thing. Part of this is our fault for not sticking to her training when she was a pup, but I really struggle with taking her on walks and not taking her upstairs to lock her in the bathroom every time she starts barking. As soon as I feel that the house is in order and the babies are calm, Ruthie seems to screw it all up by finding a cartoon dog on TV that needs an earful of her deafening barks. Or she'll totally mess up what I had planned to be a relaxing walk with her by lunging at an innocent pedestrian or squirrel.
I see young, single girls walking to the train in the morning with coffee in their hands and IPods in their ears. I see them taking their time shopping at the grocery store and the Gap. I notice how they obviously have plenty of time to straighten their hair, choose their outfit, and even change their purse so it matches their shoes. Then I think back to when I was in this stage. Completely free to spend 4 hours shopping if I wanted. And I did that. A lot. Being able to sit at a coffee shop for hours and surf the internet or work a crossword puzzle. Free to lie on the couch all day on Sunday and watch Meg Ryan movies.

Although I sound all jealous and envious, here's the thing: that freedom didn't satisfy me. Not at all. Because at that time I didn't see my life as free -- I saw it as empty. I was responsible for absolutely nothing -- no dog, no husband, no mortgage. I was wandering aimlessly through my days, and I honestly felt very insignificant. I was too alone.
A few years ago I watched the movie Into the Wild, and it rocked my world (a true story -- wishing I had read the book first). In a nutshell, a young guy goes out on his own with the goal of working his way to the wild of Alaska to rough it on his own. Along the way he stops to work to earn money and gain advice from others about how to survive in Alaska. He does make it to a remote part of Alaska and works really hard to survive and be happy only to discover that in order to have true happiness one must have others to share it with. His happiest moments in his life happened when he was spending time with others on his way to Alaska. I won't give away the end, but I will say that it left me in a gloomy fog for days . . . "Happiness is only real when shared" . . . so glad I have Clint and my babies to share it with.

Yesterday Mimi had a couple of sweet friends over for a playdate and while they were playing in her room she popped her head out every few minutes to say, "Hey Mommy, Mimi is sharing! I'm sharing my toys with my fwiends!" We have been working so very hard at learning about sharing and playing nice with others, so this is satisfaction.

Today Mack's pediatrician and I chatted for a while about what is "normal" for a two-month-old, and she was so complimentary about what a sweet and calm baby Mack is -- and how confident and calm I seem with having both him and a two-year-old. He is so happy and content. This is satisfaction.

As of this week, I have tried to remember what I learned in Ruthie's obedience classes we took several years ago and have been implementing these lessons at home and on our walks. And you know what? She's better. Much better. And she is letting me use her booty as an arm rest while I'm typing this :). Satisfied once again.

It's funny how I want so badly what I didn't even appreciate a few years ago. The time to drink an entire cup of coffee before it goes cold. The time to take a long shower and be able to put together an outfit (rather than just pull something out of the laundry basket so I don't have to fold it or hang it up). The freedom to go on a date with my husband every night -- even if it was just watching South Park at home with a bottle of wine. The freedom to know that at night it is okay for me to wash off my make-up because I know I will have time to put more on in the morning (yes, this thought crosses my mind every night).

But what's really funny is that when I do have some free time now, what do I do? I sew clothes for my children. I search for play groups and preschools on the internet. I clean up Mimi's mess and try to pull out toys she'll like. I go through Mack's clothes and stretch them so he can wear those sweet things just one more time (fatty). I hold my babies and smell their hair. I write a blog about their little lives. As crazy as it seems, I'll choose my little responsibilities over freedom any day.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I just received a cd with the photos the photographer at the hospital made, and I love the "newness" of Mack that they capture. A little guy who is just entering the world. So tiny. So flawless.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I did my best to notice . . .

. . . when the call came down the line Up to the platform of surrender I was brought but I was kind

And sometimes I get nervous when I see an open door
Close your eyes, clear your heart

Cut the cord

Are we human
Or are we dancers?
My sign is vital, my hands are cold
And I'm on my knees looking for the answer
Are we human or are we dancers?
Thank you for The Killer's Concert, Palladia. The Darby family needed a good pajama dance-off in the den this morning. Even Mack joined in.

I hope your Sunday is as happy as ours!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Alright, Mommas . . .

. . . lock up your daughters because here comes Mack Darby. WMD -- Wilson McLain Darby or "Weapon of Mass Destruction," as we like to say around here. But he sure is a handsome little thing.

Clint's father bought this sweet little outfit for Clint when he was a newborn, and his mother gave it to us a couple of months ago. I couldn't wait to put it on him.
Another sweet, sweet little outfit of Clint's . . . how can you not be in love?

But enough is enough. Sorry, little buddy. I am totally in love with this little guy. He's putting on a little weight which makes him easier to squeeze. Whenever he's crying, all I have to do is start talking to him or pick him up and suddenly he melts . . . and so do I. And I can't stop kissing him when I'm holding him. I see the little boys at the park who don't want their mothers hugging and kissing on them, so, you see, I have to do it now. And he doesn't mind right now.

He has spent the majority of the past few nights sleeping on my chest, and do I mind? No way. I wish Mimi would still do that. I know he's supposed to be all swaddled up in his bassinet and it's a big safety no-no for him to sleep on his stomach, but when he's so content and snuggly there's no way I'm putting him down.

Clint and I have a few little nicknames for him -- Mackaroni, Mack and Cheese, Little Buddy, and Bubby. Bubby is my fave. It's half Baby and half Buddy.

I do feel like he'll be my little buddy, and we're beginning to think Mimi does, too. We're a little surprised that she has never given him any negative attention. Until recently she only noticed him a couple of times a day. She might tell me, "Mommy, baby's crying," or point out something that might be his like his carseat. Other than that this was still Mimi's world and everyone else was just taking up space. Over the past couple of days she has actually hung out with him on his play mat, pushed him in his swing (which has gotten a little rough at times), and has leaned over to kiss him or rub his feet or head. She likes to count his toes and point out his body parts like eyes, ears, chin, etc. This is what she was doing in this photo, but I have to be careful that she's not poking anything too hard. I keep telling her he is her baby and they will be best friends. Maybe she'll believe me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What if?

Last week the Darby family ventured back to the South after being gone for two months -- the longest I've ever been out of my stomping ground. I felt we'd been away long enough and thought waiting until Thanksgiving was just way too long. Part of me was nervous about this trip -- nervous about the reality I might have to face. The reality that I might realize life would have been better if we had stayed.

It really didn't feel like I'd been away for more than a couple of weeks, well, until we actually returned. Believe it or not, life does go on when I'm not around. I noticed some new restaurants have opened and Mango Street baby store had moved. The summer clothes that were in the windows of stores when we left are being replaced by corduroy and wool. My friend Libby who was very pregnant when I left now has a two month old. Mimi's little girlfriends have longer hair and her buddy Banks has begun walking. Her cousin Olivia has a new haircut. So many changes that we've missed.

But most things were the same. The smiling faces in Target -- EVERYONE I passed smiled at me in Target. I feel like Chicago is a pretty friendly town, but certain parts of Memphis are super-friendly and comfortable. Actually everything about Memphis is very comfortable. It was so nice to walk into Clint's parents' home and smell his mother's cooking and see our little dog Spike. For the first time in a while, Clint and I had someone else around to help take care of our kiddos and let me do simple things I haven't been able to do in a while -- like go to the bathroom by myself and take long showers that involved hair washing AND leg shaving. Wow. The little things that make me happy now . . .

The next morning I was easily able to open the backdoor to let Ru out -- no walking required. The babies and I were able to get loaded in the car and take Clint to work (after stopping at a very much missed Chick-Fil-A) . . . and then even make a trip to Target where I bought things I haven't had time to buy, like dish towels. My parents arrived to spend the day with us, so the oil finally got changed in my car and I was able to buy a much-needed fall coat for Mimi. Daily activities that have been so difficult for me to do with two little ones in Chicago were easy-peasy while back in Memphis. Mimi even got her first haircut (and I FINALLY got one also).
And then we went over to some good friends' home to have dinner with our buddies and their children, whom we've missed dearly. The little girls acted like they had just seen each other yesterday, and I loved that everyone was able to meet little Mack. I'm so mad I didn't take the camera.

Friday night we had dinner with Clint's family, and I LOVED watching Mimi with her cousins Olivia and J.R. They were like three peas in a pod and had the most fun together playing in the backyard. Mimi and J.R. actually have conversations. Real little people talk. J.R. walked in the den and screamed, "Hi, Mimi!!" She immediately walked over to him, waved in his face, and said with arms open really, really wide, "Hi, J.R. BIG hug!" He then asked if she wanted to go outside to which she responded, "Yesh!" and off they went to get dirty and get in trouble. So fun.

I was so excited about the Ole Miss and Kentucky tailgating in the Grove that Saturday. The majority of my family (minus my brother's family in California) were able to make it. There were at least 50 of us. Well, that's what it felt like.

My sister, Amy, and me. I'm the one with the bad hair. Yes, I did get a haircut the day prior, but ran out of time to actually pull out the hair dryer that morning. Oh well, I'm just happy I got out of the house.

My two oldest neices, Jean-Nicolette and Courtney.Anderson, Meemers, Nick, and Lainee-Luckett had a wild day playing football and chasing Mimi around. She can definitely hold her own with the big kids and kept everyone busy chasing her around. Occassionally she would take off through the crowds and not look back. Everyone was exhausted from chasing her by the end of the day.Before the madness began . . . and when she didn't realize I had put a bow in her hair yet . . . . . . and at the end of the day completely sacked out on my mom.Mack decided to smile for a first time in a photo while our good friend Kyle was holding him. I hope she doesn't mind that she might get framed or be a screen-saver for a while.Clint with bff Neal. We're pulling for him to make a move to Chicago.

So overall it was a fantastic weekend, and I'm so glad we were able to go back "home" for a few days. Like I said earlier, everything felt so comfortable and easy in Memphis . . . so comfortable that I did begin to question why we even moved to Chicago in the first place. But then we returned home to Chicago . . . and both Clint and I were happy to be at our new home, but I think we have found a new appreciation for Memphis. An appreciation for the city and friends and family that we would have never found if we had never left. And I feel this will grow stronger the longer we are away. Yes, it would have been easy to stay, but we would still be wondering, "What if?" I know myself well enough to realize this. So we will continue with our little adventure, and I will keep you updated along the way. Yes, we will miss everyone dearly, but we will appreciate every moment we get to spend in Memphis when we return.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Not really sure . . .

. . . where I'm going with this post, but I feel I need a filler post about nothing today to help me unwind after our trip to Memphis (which I promise to discuss in a later post that may happen tomorrow). Today will be a day of rest for us . . . although I did take a shower this morning. It wasn't a good shower -- you know the kind where you can wash your hair AND shave your legs -- but it will have to do for today. Because I plan to go nowhere. I'm already through 2 loads of laundry, have a pot of coffee on, just pulled some lemon poppyseed muffins out of the oven, and have the newest Southern Living laid out and ready to be purged of recipes. Mack is taking a nice morning nap in his swing, Mimi is hanging out watching Nick Jr., and Ruthie is curled up on a pillow on the couch. Hopefully this tone will continue throughout the day.

Uh oh. Spoke too soon . . .

Mimi is pulling Ruthie's skinny legs and making her squeal and Mack is fussing about his empty stomach and diaper that probably weighs about 5 pounds. Black coffee, please stay hot a little longer.
Okay, now where was I? Oh yes, just letting this post go where ever it wants to. When I taught high school, one of my favorite classes was Creative Writing (I do hope those kiddos are still writing, by the way. Please don't dissapoint Ms. Nixon). At the beginning of every class they usually wrote freely for a few minutes about whatever came to mind, and this usually led them somewhere very interesting once they starting being honest and put all their insecurities out of the way. So that's what I'll try to do for a little while.
And on the topic of being honest, I had an opportunity arise recently which caused me to do a little soul searching and be honest with myself about finding the best thing for me and my family. I had a job offer. Crazy that I would even think twice about this, right? Who would want to give up staying at home with two beautiful children to pound the pavement, work on reports, and be forced to deal with people who are not always very nice? It should be natural for a woman to want to stay home to take care of her household and teach and care for her children. Shouldn't it?
Then why did I even have to think twice about this? I made a new policy a few years ago that when faced with a decision such as this I need to listen to my heart, follow my first reaction, and make sure I'm talking with God a lot during the process. I guess a little reasoning is involved but a lot more heart. So I heard the voicemail while I was out shopping with my sister, and suddenly I became very excited. Without even thinking I already knew I needed to find out more. This wasn't a random call from a recruiter -- it was from Dianne, who is the Chicago manager for the company I worked with before moving to Chicago. The company I LOVED and the only job I've ever really been sad to leave. But what am I thinking? I wanted to stay at home. I mean, look at this face . . . those navy blue eyes, the funny little faux-hawk, his cute little nose, the pasta sauce on his gown that I spilled on him during dinner last night . . .
So after beating myself up, I finally called and then met with Dianne. And I accepted. Gladly.
Should I feel guilty about this? Am I being really selfish? Is there something wrong with me? I have asked myself these questions a bazillion times. I have some friends who think I am crazy, but I had to be honest with myself. I'm not sure I'm good at being a stay-at-home mom.
Let me rephrase. It's not that I'm a bad SAHM -- it's that I think I'm a better working mom. I know I've only given this staying home thing a couple of months, but I am not myself staying home. I wake up every day feeling unorganized and like I'm wandering aimlessly throughout my day. When I worked I knew what my goals were each day with my job and my household: Convert this office, have lunch with that office, buy more diapers, and pick up the dry cleaning. Now I have no schedule and no routine. And neither does Mimi. She thrived at preschool and was excited to see me at the end of the day. I rarely ever see her excited about me anymore.
Not only was I a better Mom, but I was also a better wife. Clint comes home from a stressful day at the office to a frazzled wife and a stir-crazy daughter. I am mad at him for being alone in his office and being able to speak to other adults and not having to eat PB & J for lunch -- and for actually having the time to eat lunch. I am mad at him for being able to use the bathroom by himself and for his time to unwind on his train commute and for the squeals and hugs from Mimi when he returns home at night. I am mad and jealous. And I do not conceal these emotions well.
So I'll be starting back to work in December, and Mimi and Mack will have a sweet nanny to play with every day. We met her last week and Mimi immediately loved her. She'll babysit occassionally between now and then, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this all works out.
Okay, so enough of the heavy stuff. Here are some random photos that have been hanging out on my camera and deserve some blog time. No captions necessary.