In the midst of the chaos.

It's 3:30 in the afternoon, and so far my self-professed day of cleaning has not progressed past the kitchen. Oops.

Dishes are done, progress has been made on the laundry pile, and floors and counters have been cleaned. I have been diligently avoiding the hardest hit areas of the house, however, which at the moment happen to be the bathroom and Eliot's room.

The bathroom is a nightmare because Eliot finally learned to pee standing up, and unfortunately, he likes to swing his goods from side to side while doing so in order to see how many bubbles he can make in the toilet. Often he gets carried away with the swinging. Awesome.

I shudder to step inside his room because his well-meaning uncle, knowing Eliot's obsession with all things farming, purchased for him a fully functioning grain bin with trucks that drive underneath to be loaded. Needless to say, one cannot play with these fabulous toys without some type of grain. First it was split peas, then rice. I finally vacuumed up the split peas months ago, yet every once in awhile, I'll still step on something hard with my bare feet and lo and behold, there's a split pea stuck between my toes. There are now mounds and piles of rice in his carpet and stray grains turning up in every nook and cranny. In my shoes, in the couch cushions, in the book that I was reading... Rice. Everywhere. Love it.

Despite what a total wreck this place is, how nearly every room of my house looks like a tornado flung action figures and tractors and little plastic farm animals in a haphazard path, I get the feeling that one day I'll miss this.

I will miss the lid of the toilet always being up. I will miss getting out of bed in the dark and painfully stepping on a fire truck. I will miss hearing the quiet footsteps in the middle of the night and a whispered voice beside my bed saying, "Mommy, can you make a space for me?

At times I have to throw my hands up and sit down amongst the mess, and just take a moment to breathe. I have to absorb this. Soak it up while I can. Nothing lasts forever. Some of the things in my life that I thought were forever, weren't. So right now, and for the rest of my life, I'm going to take the time to stop and breathe and just enjoy what is now. Now is crazy. Now is a mess. Now is damp towels on the floor and globs of toothpaste in the sink and a Spiderman electric spinning toothbrush that's somehow gone missing.

Now I'm here, present in the chaos of my life, and somehow...I'm pretty happy.

And now...I've gotta go vacuum up some rice. Wish me luck.


Getting our feet wet.

I took Eliot to the pool today for the first time. (My first time, not his). I can't even begin to describe what the look of sheer joy on his face does to me. It's my entire reason for being. If I had known our local pool was this great, I'd have been taking him every day this summer. I can't believe we've just now discovered it.

The local pool complex is made up of several separate pools, and one is a zero entry with tons of spraying equipment and a frog water slide for the little kids. We spent a lot of time in the zero entry pool. There is also a full sized pool and another separate pool for diving, along with a larger water slide. Eliot begged to go into the regular pool, and as always, I was a little hesitant about it, but finally took him. He LOVED it. He really likes to swim. Clearly we'll have to look into lessons next summer. 

The reason I finally swallowed my own fear and brought Eliot swimming was that my new friend K talked me into going and meeting her and her son there. I'm so glad I did. I've avoided the pool because I'm the heaviest I've ever been in my life (including when I was nine months pregnant w/ Mog) and the thought of being in a swimming suit in public did not appeal to me, to say the least. In fact, I may just have to count today as one of my acts of bravery. LOL.

I guess when it comes right down to it, though, I'd rather have these experiences, these photos, and these memories than stay safe at home fully clothed. Now Mog and I can look back through the family albums and see these and say "Remember when..." instead of him asking me, "Mom, why didn't we ever go swimming when I was a kid?" "Oh honey, I deprived you of that experience because I thought my butt looked fat."

Nope. No way. My own unfounded fears have limited my life for long enough, and I'll be darned if they're going to limit my son's. I'll face anything for him. Airplanes. Spiders. Snakes. Even a swimming suit.

Eliot has two pairs of swimming trunks, but he chose the Spiderman pair, because, as he informed me this morning, "Spiderman is COOL!"

It's hilarious to hear him talking like a big kid all the time. We stopped by Arby's for a quick lunch before the pool, and had to wait a bit on our food. When the worker came out and set our tray down in front of Eliot, he said, "Enjoy, little man." For whatever reason, Eliot thought that was the silliest phrase he'd ever heard. He waited until the guy walked back behind the counter, put a hand over his mouth, and whispered, "Mommy, that boy talked to me. He said, 'Enjoy, little man!" And he burst into a fit of giggling. Then, throughout lunch, he kept randomly laughing again and chanting,"Enjoy, little man! Enjoy, little man!"

We'll definitely be headed back to the pool soon. Little man enjoys it. So does his big fat Momma. ;)


Just breathe.

Eliot has been with his father for almost a full week now, and I haven't seen him. I can barely even type that line without hyperventilating. Naturally, I decided this week would be a great time to forget to refill my medication. For four days. Because I need more drama in my life.

So I've had a rough week.

Poor Steven, who has been valiantly riding the waves of my insanity for the last four months, has been wonderful to me. He still seems to not just tolerate me, but actually adore me, even after I sent his Samsung touchscreen phone through the washing machine and spin cycled it into a watery coma. Inexplicable, I know.

Yesterday we went for a drive to admire the funky clouds filling our sky. It was calming, and beautiful. I'm reminded that the place I am in now, even at my worst moments, is SO much healthier and sane than the place I was in four months ago. I need to hold onto the recognition of progress, to know in my bones not only that things will get better, but that they ARE better.

I intend to squeeze every last drop of joy that I can out of what's left of July.

Only one more day until I see my son again. I can do this.


Pure joy.

I played around with this page and didn't realize until too late that I hadn't left any room for journaling, which is kind of crazy, since for me, pages are almost always about the stories they tell. I guess this photo and the page tells the story without words...but that isn't like me! I might write something to go with it and just stick my writing in behind the page inside the page protector...or maybe inside an 8 1/2 x 11 page protector facing this page? Something.

I want to write a letter to Eliot about how exuberant he is, how full of life. I want to tell him, because he won't remember these early days, that the swings are his favorite of all the playground equipment, that he begs me to push "bigger, bigger!" I want to sheepishly admit that even though he's three years old, I still put him in the baby swings because I'm paranoid that he'll let go and fall. I'm still not ready to let him fall. I want to remind him how much sunshine he brings into my life, and I want to thank him for giving me so many opportunities to experience pure joy right alongside him. His arms are always wide open. He is such a gift.


Miss Evangeline.

Thanks to these super cute pictures Adriane gave me of my niece Evie, I got to use some pretty pink girly embellishments on a page. :)

I hadn't scrapbooked for SO long until I went to a crop this past Friday evening and finally got to play a bit.

Journaling reads: "Your mommy told me, "Rachel, you should have a baby girl. I could never have imagined it would be so much fun!"

Evie, she might have had me convinced if you hadn't proceeded to throw up all down my arm. LOL. :)"


I'm not scared.

I have found that the best way to start a list is to make note of things you've ALREADY accomplished. That way, you can check those tasks off and already feel like you've been productive. See how that works? I know: brilliant.

In the interest of making myself feel super awesome and forcing myself to continue living bravely, I've come up with just such a list. I turned 31 in June. I'm thinking that every month until I turn 32, I need to do something that scares the living daylights out of me. That's twelve "things" to anticipate, meet head on, and conquer. (And then in my 32nd year, I shall try to take over the world. Shhh...don't tell anyone.)

So in June, my birthday month, I took trapeze lessons. In July, I sang karaoke for the first time ever. Here's a list of other wild and crazy things I vow to tackle before my 32nd birthday:

fire a gun
commit to and follow through with a public speaking engagement
write everyday for a month
ride a scary amusement park ride
look a squirrel straight in its beady little eyes without flinching
take Eliot with me on a trip involving air travel
go skiing
take a self-defense class
play paintball
ride a mechanical bull

Each of these tasks is something Old Rachel would not have done. In the past, fear has held Rachel back. Fear of being hurt, fear of actually being successful, fear of rejection...
No more. New Rachel doesn't NOT do things because she's scared. New Rachel does things precisely BECAUSE they scare her. Because she knows that's the only way to grow into the person she most wants to be.

Okay. I'm going to stop talking about myself in the third person now. Promise. =)

Anybody know where I can find a mechanical bull?


My best side.

Socrates famously said, "The unexamined life is not worth living."

My son would probably disagree with him.

Or at least, he would point out, "The over-photographed life is also a pain in the rear."

I have hundreds of photos of Eliot as a baby, in every different outfit, from every different angle. Now that he's developed fine motor skills and all, though, it's considerably more difficult to snap pictures of him.

Scrapbookers' kids sure have it rough, don't they?!

Unfortunately for him, I like the shots where he's frustrated at me and/or trying to avoid the gaze of my camera lens just as much as the smiley, willing photos. He just can't win. ;)


Still, I have no regrets.

I'm not a bad person. There are things I've done, choices I've made, and even aspects of my personality that I'm not particularly proud of...but all in all, I think I'm a pretty decent human being.

Eliot and I were outside in our backyard yesterday, and he was playing in his sandbox. There were hornets buzzing around the area where he was playing, so I grabbed a flyswatter and killed one of them when it chanced to land on the patio. Fifteen minutes or so later, Eliot asked me, seemingly at random, "Are you good or bad, Mommy?"

"Uh? Well? I'm pretty good, I think," I replied, modestly, I thought.

"Nope," he said, without even pausing in the construction of his sand road, "You're bad."

"What makes you think Mommy is bad?" I asked.

He points out, unhesitatingly, "You were bad to that stinger bug."

How can I defend myself against that accusation? Were the stinger bug alive to comment, he'd probably tend to agree with Eliot. And from his perspective (the stinger bug's, not Eliot's), I guess I'm pretty bad...

After all:

1) My policy on stinger bugs is swat first, ask questions later. I'm not going to wait and see whether or not they'll sting my kid. And I don't shoot for the kneecaps. I aim to kill.

2) I don't like dogs. Not even puppies. Nothing you can do or say is going to make me like them, so please don't even try. I realize they're cute and all...I just don't care.

3) One time in college, I was shopping in Big Lots and opened a box of cookies and started eating them, then decided I didn't want them after all, so I just put them back on the shelf.

4) I've smoked pot before, and unlike former President Clinton, I inhaled. (Because the way I understood it, that was kind of the point.)

5) My therapist says I need to stop mothering people (with the exception of Mog, of course). I didn't really take him seriously until this afternoon when a total stranger pulled her car to the side of the road to ask me directions and I felt the overwhelming urge to just hop into the passenger seat and guide her all the way to her destination.

6) On more than one occasion, I have eaten mass quantities of chocolate until I reached the point of vomiting. What can I say? I like chocolate.

7) Sometimes I pretend to like people that I don't really like. It's just easier.

8) My son calls my ex-husband's girlfriend "Heifer," and I don't bother to correct him. (Her name is Heather.)

9) I'm kind of hoping my son is gay. I hoped he would be left-handed, too, and he isn't, so shouldn't I get SOMETHING? Come on!

10) I feel very little guilt about being narcissistic. I feel guilt about almost everything else in my life, but not about that. So what if I indulge in near-constant navel-gazing? My belly button is FASCINATING, okay?! Don't try to pretend that it's not. :)

Does all of that make me bad? Nahhhhhh. I don't think so. Not one bit. So long as you don't ask the stinger bug. And he's not talking anyway.


The one where I join the flying wallendas.

Go Ahead and JUMP! from Rachel on Vimeo.

It's true: I was the fattest kid in trapeze class. I was pretty sure my attempt would go like this: jump off the platform and immediately fall into the net due to pathetically nonexistent upper arm strength. I knew there was no way I could support the weight of my body hanging onto a bar like that, and there certainly was no way I would be able to haul my legs up over my head and dangle from my knees, much less extricate myself from that position in order to properly dismount the trapeze. (Is that what it's called in trapeze? "Dismount?")

What I didn't know is that the forward momentum of flying through the air pretty much propels one's body and makes those positions, if not easily, at least relatively likely achievable.

Aside from our visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, trapeze lessons were my favorite part of my trip to New York. I've forced myself to be brave so many times this year. Back in February I claimed that performing a part in the local production of The Vagina Monologues was my brave act of the year. Little did I know, it was only the beginning. Since February, I've created a new home with my son, divorced my cheating husband, adjusted to life as a single mom, driven by myself in downtown Chicago, vacationed in New York City, taken trapeze lessons, and SUNG KARAOKE. The karaoke was definitely the scariest act. ;)

But back to trapeze lessons.

Before I even knew I was signed up for them (The lessons were a surprise birthday gift from my super cool friend Megan), I wrote about feeling like I was on a flying trapeze. You have NO IDEA how liberating it was to jump off that platform and feel myself flying through the air. No idea. And to know that no matter what I did, everything was going to be A okay.

The Catch from Rachel on Vimeo.

As it turns out, all those things you tell yourself you can't do...when it comes time...and you HAVE to...you just do it. Because you can do ANYTHING. Anything.

(It also didn't hurt that the guy catching me was super cute and totally ripped. I'm just sayin'.)



I've been going through my photo files lately, trying to clean up, organize, and make back-up copies of everything before my laptop dies completely. (It seems to be in its death throes ever since Eliot spilled almost a full can of Sprite into the keyboard.)
During this task, it's been pretty difficult NOT to get nostalgic. In a lot of ways, I miss my kiddo being a baby. I miss that gummy smile he used to have, before his teeth came in. I miss the way he toddled around all tipsy until he developed more balance and became a confident walker. Of course, the hardest photos to go through are the ones with all three of us as a family. Eli, Eliot, and I, all grinning wildly for the camera. Looking at those photos, it's easy to believe we had it all. Obviously, we did not.

Old photos also remind me of all the stories I've never told, ones that, for whatever reason, I never got around to.

Eliot's first swim. He was fourteen months old the first time I took him swimming. (I was a little a lot crazy overprotective of him when he was a baby. Many of his firsts came late not because he wasn't ready, but but because I couldn't let go.) His first time in the pool, he was pretty hesitant. I LOVE this series of shots, because they so clearly tell the story of his first pool adventure.

I love that even when he realizes he loves the water, he's still not about to release the death grip on my swimsuit strap.

And then he discovered splashing, and all was right with the world.

I know our world wasn't coated with sugar and populated by friendly unicorns back then. I do. But that's what nostalgia is about, right? Looking back and seeing only the good, banishing the bad? Yearning for a past that never truly was?

I'm sure there was plenty bad going on that day. Just two summers ago, and my marriage was slowly unraveling. I was too busy to notice. Or too secure. Or too trusting. Too something.

But...when I look back at these pictures, I don't remember the bad.

I remember only joy. I want that again.