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New Beginnings

I have been away from this space for longer than I ever thought possible. Beth has emphatically declared that I am a writer, despite the resistance that I have to accepting that title. But she’s right. No matter how well or poorly I’ve done it, I’ve loved writing my entire life. It started as school projects and journal entries, had a brief stint as a humor columnist (among my family and friends – never did get the gumption to hand any in to a paper or magazine), and eventually morphed in to this blog. There have certainly been times when I have not felt like writing, or despite wanting to, it got pushed to the bottom of the To Do list by life. But even if I don’t want to sit down and publish my thoughts, I never stop writing. I write (and re-write) sentences in my head throughout my day. When inspiration does come, my fingers can start to twitch when I’m too far from a keyboard. And I have rituals for when I write. Certainly some posts are put up quickly, with little effort – a picture of my beautiful girls may not need anything more than a title, and shared conversations have already written themselves. If I’m really writing though – telling a story through my own words – I like things a certain way.

Ernest Hemingway said, “write drunk – edit sober.” I hadn’t heard this quote until recently but it made me smile in recognition of the way I write. I do very much enjoy a glass of wine as part of my ritual, but when I “write drunk” it’s not about a state of inebriation – it’s about the flow. When I sit down in front of a keyboard, I don’t agonize over sentence structure. I tell my story. My backspace button is used here and there but I prefer to relax and let my thoughts spill on to the screen as they come, naturally. The true editing appears after the first draft is completely finished. Second, third – sometimes fourth re-reads will follow in a “sober” phase to ensure I’m getting the feeling I intended across, and of course the occasional grammar fix (I do notice them – I just don’t care about the majority) all before I even consider clicking Publish.

All of this does not guarantee a fantastic post. Some I love, some I feel – despite sober editing – just never made their full potential. Some are too silly to critique, and some I roll my eyes at and wonder what on earth I was thinking. And all of those combined, equal – my life. A little silly at times, or serious, or eye-rolling – sometimes in-depth, sometimes quick to the point. This is me.

I started this blog in the summer of 2007. Just shy of 5 years ago. At that point I still defined myself by the work I had done, especially my most recent job where Justice Girl was born. I knew I was good at my job at the court. I felt confident there – whatever new experience had been thrown at me, I handled it, and I handled it well. Once I became a full-time mom I was terrified. I didn’t feel confident and I didn’t always handle things well. I had read verdicts that sent men to prison for life in front of the accused, a jury, and room full of strangers. I could decipher the handwriting of any judge in the building (trust me – not an easy task). I could type pages of legal jargon in minutes and eventually even knew what the hell that jargon meant (also not an easy task). The amount of work I could accomplish in one day left me exhausted almost every night – I had a boss that expected 200% at all times and I was determined to not let him down. So how could it be that when I walked out the doors of the 4th District Court, and traded my heels in for flats, that I could go an entire day without doing ANYTHING besides clean up bodily fluids. The baby. The puppy. The baby and the puppy together. This was my life now. Brushing my teeth became optional, due to the amount of time it took to feed and burp and clean up and diaper and start all over again. So there were days when I ached to be Justice Girl again. When I would beg the gods to switch the screaming toddler for a screaming inmate – at least the inmate could be hauled away and put back in a cell.

This blog is a chronicle of such an essential, important change in my life. And yet…I’ve now reached a point where I’ve been a stay at home mom longer than I had been Justice Girl. I have worked since I was 15, but Justice Girl was the highlight – the proof that despite the poor decisions I made in life that reduced me to forever being a secretary despite the position never once occurring to me as something I wanted in life – that I was truly good at something. As mundane as it could be, as stressful as it was – I was good at it, and I accepted that – a task harder than any other. So I defined myself by it however inane it may sound to do so. And now I can no longer do that. I am many things, but I am no longer Justice Girl. She is a proud moment in my life, and will always be, but she is no longer how I define myself.

There has been a major shift in my life recently – causing my retreat from this space. I’ve had traumatic events induce a change of head and heart that has turned my entire life upside down and in turn has affected everything I do and everyone around me. At the moment I am feeling fairly lost and unsure. But there are things that are bringing glimpses of hope and sightings of paths that may be rocky and uphill, but will lead me out of this. Most importantly, those sightings are coming from the presence of the hand of my husband, entwined in mine, showing me the meaning of a partner – someone who is there to walk beside you and pull you up when you need it, even if you can’t bring yourself to ask for the help. They are coming in the form of supportive family and friends. They are coming in the form of therapy and a lot of hard realizations that I have tried to wish away or dismiss for years. And they are coming in the form of hugs from a Birdie and a Princess, a nuzzle from a dog that most of the time resembles a bear, the feeling of clay – molded by my hands, a sighting of a red bird on the feeder under the cherry tree, or a walk around my garden, watching life appear out of the cold, wet soil.

My dad has a pagan nickname for me. Brighid – the princess of Imbolc, where the arrival of Spring is celebrated. I’ve found it to be fitting in so many ways. I always thought that my favorite season was Fall, and I do love it, but winter is hard on me. I am taken away from the life that I crave – my garden, the warmth of the sun…when I see flowers beginning to appear out of defrosted soil, I can breathe again. At this point in my life, the breathing is still labored, but life is starting to appear. And the reason behind it is change.

Some of the changes I want to make in my life have been easily decided. Despite the pain surrounding them, they had to happen and are essential for me to get through this and become a better person. Some of the changes have not been easy decisions. One in particular I have fought tooth and nail, resisting, struggling, denying, but finally in the end – accepting. That particular change will be leaving this blog and letting Justice Girl rest as a part of my past. Despite my reluctant title of a writer (among the others I have allowed myself to own or have been pasted on by others) I can’t really find appropriate words to describe how painful this decision has been for me. And yet, I feel at peace with it. I am striving to be a new, better person and that means I need to find new ways to define myself.

That being said – with pain, and heartache – but said, nonetheless – I can not stop writing. However poor my grammar, or silly my stories, or small my audience, I am a writer. And just as I moved from paper to the web, 5 years ago, I will be moving from this loved space to another. I don’t know what is ahead of me in terms of chronicling my life. My writing has changed over the years because I have changed, and this moment in my life is creating change bigger than I had ever anticipated. The only thing I know for sure is that the sound of a keyboard or the scratch of a pen on paper will forever be soothing to me, and I refuse to let go of the things I am sure of.

I will miss you, Justice Girl. You taught me that I could be proud of my work and confident in my abilities. Lessons I will be clinging to as I look for those glimmers of hope. You have been my therapy through countless screaming tantrums from adorable babies, and a way to share my endless love and pride of those same babies (when not screaming).  We’ve chronicled adventures together as big as moving across the country to vacations to capturing fire-flies. I’ve come out of my shell and talked about important things, and shared very un-important things here as well, knowing they would make someone else smile or laugh…which, after all, is pretty important. Most of all, you’ve taught me that I have a voice – a voice that deserves to be heard, even if few are listening. A voice that has changed and grown and will continue to do so. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now go – there is no time to waste – crime is rampant and the world is begging for a hero. Love, -B.

The day before I left Utah, I had a video-chat with my girls. My sister Maiken (their Auntie Mimi) popped on-screen to say hello and to remind Sophie that her birthday was just 3 days of waiting away! My exact thoughts were, “Ah, crap.” (Okay, I didn’t say “crap” in my head but sometimes I feel the need to edit my brain when I know my mom reads this. Sorry, Mom.) I had done zero prep for Sophie’s birthday before I left. Not only were gifts not purchased yet, I had promised to make her a Rapunzel dress. I repeat – “Ah, crap.” I also had wanted to make her a set of Minnie Mouse ears since Minnie is right next to Rapunzel in favorites at the moment. I wasn’t too worried about that one but still…my house would be filled to the brim and I had regular stuff to get done as well, so….(you know the words by now – insert them here).

I did actually go to the Disney store with Tom at one point to pick out some toys and of course they had a Rapunzel dress AND Minnie ears. Tom encouraged me to just buy them. Instead of listening to reason that sometimes you just need to go with what is less-stressful, The Stubborn inside of me rose up and gave him a dirty look instead. I left without a dress or ears, but some extra determination to get-it-done.

Thank goodness for crafty boys who are more-than-okay with the idea of setting up a sweatshop in the dining room and keeping me company (and helping with the girls – a lot) while I plugged away with a thread, needle and scissors. The ears were finished that afternoon. Two stuffed circles, sewn onto a headband, with a small piece of Velcro on one side to allow for swapping of pink and red bows. I did discover quickly (after making Zach try them on for me) that one of the ears flops. Normally I would have spent a lot of time trying to fix that. Instead, I decided that a floppy Minnie ear was “adorable” instead of “shoddy workmanship.” A three year old mouse-fan thought they were pretty great and has worn them at least twice a week out on errands, much to the delight of Target employees and the senior-citizen crowd at Costco.

(Oh, Princess…always one step away from a pout)

(photo by Enoch)

The Rapunzel dress was started that same day and finished uhhh…the night before her birthday. At least I got to type “finished” and not “scrapped.” I was not super thrilled with it because it turned out so plain. For the sake of time limitations, I had bought a purple shirt and attached a skirt made of sparkly purple satin-y stuff (I’m guessing polyester probably?) with a layer of tulle – also sparkly- on top. For the bodice I simply sewed ribbon down the front to imitate a corset. I had really wanted to do the strips of ribbon on the sleeves that the store-bought dress has but I could only find a long-sleeved dress and I didn’t have time to shorten the sleeves or figure out an appropriate way to attach the ribbons. So it was done and half-heartedly shown off to Tom and the boys before I went to bed.

I knew that she would like it, even if I wasn’t thrilled, and she did. It has, just like the ears, been worn in public – sometimes with a tiara, sometimes not. She was very upset that I wouldn’t let her walk around Target in bare feet (Pa-ten-zel doesn’t have shoes, Momma!) but after a discussion of appropriate footwear for a true princess, we settled on the most likely option. Pink cowgirl boots. Hey…some people are just born with style, what can I say?

The Schroeder Bunch

Yep. I wrote this on the 5th and am just now getting around to posting it. I’m also just now getting around to realizing that instead of being 3 weeks behind, this is just my life – INSANITY. Acceptance is the most important step right?

***************************************************

I got home from Utah on Tuesday at about 7pm. That meant I came home, had some dinner, helped get the girls to bed and basically collapsed. The next day I had a lot to do – it was a school day, I had done zero prep for Sophie’s birthday on Friday and at about 1:30 in the afternoon I had 4 boys arrive at my door for a week’s stay while their parents took a much-deserved trip by themselves to Arizona to see family and attend a wedding.

I am quite positive that these are the best behaved children on the planet. Now, I realize that has something to do with not being in their own house and probably some warnings to be on best behavior from their parents but it’s not like I’ve never been around these boys and I’m telling you – they are awesome. Going from 2 kids to 6 has been more work, I’ll admit – if only for meal time preparation. But – I also have had a constant stream of “can I help?” coming at me from each of them, and that has been heartily appreciated.

I think the hardest part has been that I am really not sure what to do with 4 boys. Or any, really. The weather has been okay at times but mostly cold or rainy and cold so that means we have been housebound for the majority of the time. I do have a decent amount of craft supplies but they are mostly geared towards young girls. The boys have been troopers though and when I request we have un-plugged time have found things to do.

Like entertaining my girls:

Hanging a swing:

Setting up a sweatshop to make stencils for wallets and t-shirts, a princess dress, Minnie Mouse ears (with interchangeable bows), and underwear (that was all Enoch).

And lastly, and my personal favorite: after buying a value pack of canvases – allowing free access to my paints and brushes and saying, “create.” Six very talented artists all in one room. Pretty amazing.

From top left to right: (Sophie, Ella, Alec, Josh, Zach, and Enoch)

Perhaps I’ll post some more pictures on flickr. Now that I’ve accepted the insanity of my life I will say that they will be up sometime between now and Some Point in the Future.

Beehive Wrap-up

My sole reason for this visit to Utah was for the funeral of my grandfather, and it was very hard for me to acknowledge that and accept the closure of saying goodbye to him – he will be so missed and I am so sad that my kids will never know him in any other capacity than stories. There is a thing about funerals though – they bring entire families together – and when you have a family like mine, that’s something to take advantage of. I got to see people I hadn’t seen in years, and have a few extra days that I wouldn’t otherwise with my immediate family.

A lot of the following pictures are of terrible quality, but I love them just the same because each one is a warm-fuzzy-moment in a week that carried a lot of sadness and missing as well.

Alex, reading one of the poems that my grandpa used to read to her when she was cleaning his house a few years back. It was one of many new stories I heard about him on that trip and I loved every single one.

Two out of four (my younger sisters squished in with me too) sleeping companions. Lola is on the right hand side covered in blankets (Lola is always covered in blankets) and Jack…well…you can never miss Jack.

Baby time with Juniper at the funeral. Baby time = healing time. I smelled her head a lot and let her tug on my jewelry and listened to her say “tur-tle” over and over. It was wonderful.

My niece, Lucia, on the elephant at Bombay House – our favorite family restaurant. We all agreed that it was a very fitting way to spend our evening when my grandpa was the one who had introduced us to the restaurant because of a long-time friendship with the owner’s (who has always treated us like family) parents.

I don’t think I’ve ever been with my sisters where we haven’t been doing some sort of photo-shennanigans. I believe there are less than 5 normal pictures of us in existence.

I went to Colt and Maggie’s Oscar party (I’ve always been sad to miss what sound like fabulous Colt and Maggie parties) and dined on best-picture themed food (which was all fantastic, as I knew it would be). An extra bonus of the evening was having my cousin Jonny (Maggie’s brother) there as well – we haven’t been in Utah together since I moved to PA and we became close. An extra, extra bonus was the self-declared lap-dog-who-is-too-heavy-to-be-a-lap-dog love we got from Colt’s adorable Sparky.

Alex, working on her handmade spoon with help from my dad. If you tell my dad that you want to whittle a spoon, he’s not going to just smile and pat you on the shoulder and say, “good luck with that.” He will go find tools that were passed down in his family and show you how to use them and make sure you get the technique right before you leave, with the heirlooms in hand – happy they are once again being used.

And because I don’t have a picture of her from the trip, I have to put one in of my mom’s food. Because it doesn’t matter that I came out to help her. If she has even one opportunity to take care of you, like making tamales or German pancakes – two of your favorite foods, she will. Because that is who she is.

My favorite memories of the trip do not have photos attached, but the conversation I had with my mom, on the way to the viewing where she told me what kind of dad Grandpa had been – looking around a room full of Craigs and realizing how proud my Grandpa would be of his legacy – and singing songs with my sisters on the porch – those are things that make every second of that trip, despite all it took to get out there, worth it.

Dear Sophie

My princess ladybug,

At the moment I’m sitting on my bed, trying to think of how to condense your last year into a reasonable-sized letter, while you are crying in your room because your big sister indicated that she might try to play with some of your new toys in the morning. This has not been the first princess-moment of your day (every time your Minnie Mouse ears slipped off, for example, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth) and it very well might not be the last, depending on your level of exhaustion verses your level of irritation at whatever may arise before sleep comes.

The nickname of Princess is a term of endearment, but I must admit that it has always been a bit tongue-in-cheek. Yes, you do love dresses and skirts – the idea of wearing pants is usually met with horror and dismay that I would torture you so – and you love sparkly, pink anything. You are constantly toting around as many plastic princess figurines as your little hands can carry (4 is reasonable, but I’ve seen as many as 6) and insist on sleeping with at least 2, despite my warnings that rolling over them during the night will not be pleasant. And a few weeks ago, when we took you to see Enoch and Zach perform in the play, Cinderella, you sat the entire 2 1/2 hours in complete wonderment, ooohing over the best parts and clambering to stand on my lap in order to get a better look at the fancy ballgown. However, the reason your nickname stuck was due to the Attitude that one could only attach to a Girl of Privilege who gets what she wants, when she wants it. Where you got this sense of entitlement, I’m not quite sure, but it certainly has not faded over the course of 3 years, and I’m guessing is something I will be writing about for years to come.

The years go by so fast for me now that I sometimes think that not much could have changed in just 12 short months. And yet instead of my chubby-cheeked just-barely-not-a-baby, I now have a beautiful little girl who has grown much too fast in 4 seasons past. Your dad and I beg you to eat as we see all of your baby fat disappear into a slim frame that bears no resemblance to a baby, no matter how much I’d like to deny it. Your hair….oh my goodness…this is the hair that I have dreamed of having my entire life. It has gone from shoulder-blade length to grazing your waist, and miraculously, even with all that length, has held on to the most perfect soft curls. You still have words that you adorably mispronounce (anyone who has the chance to hear “Rapunzel” before it gets self-corrected should – I tell you – this stuff is more powerful for warm fuzzies than watching kittens) and yet you also speak in complete, understandable sentences, making conversation less frustrating and much more entertaining. Being able to see you think something over, and then clearly ask about whatever curiosity was mulling around in your brain – it is spectacular to behold and I relish this fantastic stage of learning new, wonderful things every day.

Of course some things never change. You are very smart and even though your dad and I are fully aware of this, you still surprise us on a regular basis with questions, comments, or finding loopholes to what we are certain is perfect reasoning for a toddler. You still love, love, love music and even though your tastes are varied, I can’t help but smile to see you seemingly involuntarily start to dance and bop your head when alternative or hard rock music is played. You will always be my hardcore princess if the level at which you belt out White Stripes tunes is any indication. And as any child of mine must be – you hold a special place in your heart for two of my true loves – shoes, and books (in no particular order). I almost never deny the opportunity to sit down for a story or to watch the parade of you and your sister trying on the highest, prettiest heels in my closet. My daughters should always be able to appreciate the finer things in life and if I can’t get you to try my risotto (yet – I’m still determined!) then I will gladly teach you the name “Steve Madden” right alongside “Hamlet.”

As I read your letter from last year, my heart ached over one particular change. No longer am I allowed to rock you to sleep at night – something I foolishly resisted in the beginning – and sing lullabies softly in to your ear. Instead, you listen to cds and mp3s, and the head that used to rest against my chest now barely touches me in a quick hug before running away to plead that Daddy be the one to escort you to your room. When it was time for your birth story tonight it took a little too much convincing (for my comfort at least) to get you to sit on my lap in that now abandoned rocking chair. Once you finally agreed, you gave me your complete attention and inserted some very appropriately placed “wow”s into the storyline. Daddy was there this time, which might have bothered me considering this has been my special birthday moment with both of my girls since you were each born, except that having him act out the doctor pulling you out by the feet was very well received with a requested (and granted) encore.

Today was such a busy day, even without birthday things added, and yet when I picked you up from your nap and you were still tired, I quietly carried you in to my room and sat in my bed with you still sleeping against my chest, where you now barely fit. If these are the only cuddling moments that I have left with my much-too-grown-up girl, then I will pray to every god that has ever existed that they last as long as possible.

Love,

Momma

(Photo by Enoch)

Britta: So I tried to make icing and even though I softened the butter like the recipe said, it’s all lumpy with butter chunks despite beating the daylights out of it. I hate baking. Why can I cook but not bake?

Tom: Well…I think that’s pretty common – people being good at one or the other. Baking is science and you don’t like science.

Britta: What?! I LOVE science. I was a total science nerd in school. Biology, Botany, Zoology…

Tom: Not that kind of science. Baking is chemistry.

Britta: Damn. I hate chemistry.

Tom: *puts hands in air and shrugs while grinning (a little too smugly, I might add) *

And I grumbled all the way to the baking aisle at the grocery store where I picked up pre-made, smooth icing. If only Sophie had asked for a nice risotto for her birthday dessert…we would have been set…

On Tuesday morning I boarded a plane by myself. For the first time in 11 years, I wouldn’t have either a husband or children to accompany me. It was…strange. So strange that I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I pulled out my iPhone for a minute and scrolled through some podcasts to find something to listen to, and then my friend Marty popped up in my head (hint: he’s not a fan of people staring in to electronic devices) so I decided to channel him. I put the phone away to talk to my neighbor, who had been making friendly comments since I sat down. Two plane rides and almost six hours later, I had met two new, and yet completely different in almost every aspect, people. And I had successfully managed to calm my brain about the matters rolling around in there – my grandfather, leaving the girls, leaving Tom, leaving Koda, finding clothes for the viewing, and too many more to list.

I’ve been here for a few days now and my brain is back to a discombobulated state…there’s no way I can put all these thoughts in to a structured paragraph. So I won’t.

  • Utah drivers – y’all need to CHILL. Learn the meaning of the word merge.
  • My parents do not have a full sized mirror upstairs so instead of walking down to my sister’s bathroom, I usually opt to stand on the tub instead, which puts me at the appropriate height to see in the above-sink mirror. I’m fairly certain this will one day end in disaster but I still do it.
  • Dinner at Cafe Rio makes me so happy I want to hug my food. I miss Mexican food that tastes delicious and I didn’t have to cook myself.
  • When you are debating the color of a shirt, it is much easier to prevail when your competition is your color-blind husband than when you are going up against two artists and a graphic design student.
  • My sister likes to do “your mom” jokes…
  •  The 75 mile an hour speed-limit on the last leg of the trip to my parents’ house feels so decadent compared to the 55 limit I’m surrounded by in PA.
  • The mountains are so pretty covered in snow. Especially when highlighted by the sunset, in pinks and golds.

Tomorrow I will attend my grandfather’s viewing and on Saturday we will have the funeral. After typing that sentence my entire brain stopped and ceased to think about anything else for a full minute.  But no matter how scattered I am right now, I am incredibly grateful to be here with my family, to have a husband who is taking on my full-time job along with his, in order for me to be out here, and for friends who have sent me incredibly kind and loving thoughts the last week. Y’all are wonderful…which seems a perfect ending to some random thoughts.

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