Before, Here & Now, And Every Moment After

Jess & JohnWe fell in love over comedy films, pizza date nights, campus snow closures, beach trips, and shared meals at the college cafeteria. We stood beside each other at our graduations, held each other close on the dance floor at friends’ weddings, and felt our hands tire and cramp as we signed a heap of documents during the closing for our first home. We didn’t have cable or real furniture until six months after we moved in, and we spent many nights laughing through Scrubs DVDs and eating cheap, processed food from the comfort of our Ikea futon. What we lacked in money, we made up for in love.

The earliest days of our relationship are long gone, buried in time. Even though many things in our lives have changed, the memories of our first years together remain and I hold them close to my heart. Before we were married, before we became parents, when our biggest worries in life were waking up on time for class, preparing for finals, and ironing clothes for our new jobs. When you were just John, the cute guy with the funny accent, and I was just Jess, the tall, awkward girl with the horrible short haircut. (Seriously, what was I thinking with that haircut? I wish I had a picture to share, but our college photos are still packed away.)

These days it’s sometimes hard to recall who we were before parenthood. Sure, you’re still you and I’m still me, but having two kids in just as many years has made it difficult to take a breath and step outside of our roles as mother and father. Even on date nights where we’re supposed to be focused on each other, we spend the majority of our time together talking about our girls… Because our lives mostly revolve around them right now. We’ve fallen deeply into parenting two little babies – tiny, wonderful people who have enriched our lives immensely, brought us great joy, challenged us, and made us stronger partners.

This, like all the other moments we’ve shared together, is a phase. It’s an intense season filled with lots of sunshine, warmth and sometimes tornadoes and monsoons. The overall climate depends on just how much our three-year-old slept the night before and whether the ten-month-old is cutting teeth. But just like any other phase, it’s temporary and fleeting. As things begin to change again and our babies turn into kids that need us less, one constant will remain: our love. We began our journey together as partners in love, and we’ll continue that way through all the moments of our life.

Parenting babies is a trip, and it’s easy to lose yourself along the way. Sometimes as we’re going through the daily grind, it may seem as though I’ve forgotten you. Please know that I haven’t. Even though we’re immersed in our new roles right now, you’re still my friend and partner; the man that I love. As our babies grow older, I look forward to getting reacquainted with you (and myself) over time. No matter where life’s journey takes us, I’ll be waiting for you as we begin the next phase – always. I promise I’ll never forget you or leave you behind.

The Toddler Times: Conversations with Imaginary Friends

Image credit: Disney

Image credit: Disney

In the early 1980s, I had an imaginary friend called Nora. Nora drew her namesake from Pete’s Dragon, a 1977 musical that Disney will probably keep in their vault until the end of time. Seriously, did anyone else see this movie? (If you did, please leave a comment because I NEED to know I’m not alone here!) The plot followed an orphaned boy named Pete, his dragon Elliot, and their zany adventures in a small seaside town. Looking back, the film was a little like Men From Maine meets Puff the Magic Dragon, except a musical. But at the time, I loved it so much that I named my imaginary friend after one of the main characters.

Right now, Button (our oldest daughter, name changed here to protect the innocent), has an imaginary friend as well, but she isn’t named Nora. Her imaginary friend is called Walter. And given his name and the way she talks about him, I suspect that Walter is actually a 79-year-old man who’s in poor health. I’ve been racking my brain, but have no idea where she got Walter. I even went the extra mile and Googled the name to investigate possible connections… Apparently, there’s a Muppet called Walter, but as far as I know she’s never seen The Muppets. In my mind, imaginary Walter looks a lot like Walter Matthau. I can only hope he’s just as funny.

We were first introduced to Walter in the car a couple weeks ago when she called him on her phone (which looks suspiciously like the palm of her hand) while we were running errands. The conversation with Walter went something like this:

Button: <talking to her hand> Hi Walter! How are you? Are you coming to my party?

Walter: <inaudible>

Button: <serious tone> Oh no! You’re in the hospital, Walter? You’re sick, Walter?

Walter: <inaudible>

Button: You can’t come to my party because you’re sick, Walter.

Button: <to me> Mom, I’m texting Walter.

Me: <trying to maintain control of the vehicle while struggling to contain my laughter>

After overhearing her conversation, I told our family all about imaginary Walter and his mysterious illness. Button mentioned him on and off after their exchange in the car, but there were no subsequent phone calls or texts. After a few days and no word from imaginary Walter, I began to worry. After all, she did say that he was sick and in the hospital. And from the tone of their conversation, it sounded serious. Questions ran through my mind: Was imaginary Walter suffering from an age-related illness? Perhaps COPD or emphysema? Was he a lifelong smoker? Does he have an imaginary next of kin? My concerns were validated when I received a text from my brother-in-law one fateful morning which read, “I got some bad news about Walter. He isn’t going to make it.”

Thankfully, I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time because it would have come flying out of my nose. I don’t think I’ll break the news to Button. We’ll just wait and see if imaginary Walter makes a miraculous recovery.

I’m Published on HuffPost Parents!

Yesterday was a big, giant, wonderful day for me and my little baby mom-blog. I had my first piece published on the Huffington Post Parents site. Chances are you may have already seen it because I couldn’t contain my excitement and plastered the link all over my social media profiles (timelines? accounts? whatevers.) If my beautiful mother and I popped up in your Facebook newsfeed seventy-six times last night, my apologies. But as a small fish in a giant sea of mommy-bloggers and incredible writers sharing their content all over the place online, I’ve got to do a little self promotion in order to make my voice heard. Might as well embrace the idea and let go of the shame by yelling from the proverbial Internet rooftops, right?

HELLO PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET! THANK YOU ALL FOR READING, COMMENTING, AND SHARING MY STORY! I HEART YOU! YOU’RE AMAZING!

Plus, I’m proud of what I wrote. It made my mother so happy, and I love that woman to pieces! If by some miracle of science or social media you haven’t seen it yet, you can check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jess-ullrich/a-letter-to-my-mother_b_6462376.html

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