On Being 12

She surprises me with her hug from behind. Her arms around me and her head resting on my shoulder. She touches my hair slightly and whispers “I love you, Mom.” I pat her head awkwardly. I admit this freely. I’m not sure how to touch my daughter. My daughter who turns 12 today.

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I’m sitting on the dining room chair and she comes over and puts her bottom next to mine and pushes me over to make room for her. She’s touching me – leg to leg – and her head rests on my arm. She puts her hand on mine. I move away shocked almost. Not sure again how to touch her. What does she want? What is she doing?

 

The bus is coming. We’ve been at the bus stop now together for nearly seven years. It’s always the same. The bus turns the corner and comes towards our stop. Eloise walks away from me quickly – without a goodbye or a hug or kiss. I yell out “Have a good day, Mo! Love you!” But she never responds. Esther leans into me with a large hug and kiss like we may never see each other again. I watch the bus as it pulls away. Esther waves and blows kisses. Eloise is talking to friends – and never looks out the window.

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You might be reading this shocked. Appalled. Confused. I’m her mother. Her mother of all of her months, her weeks, her days, her minutes, her seconds, her every moment…how could I not know what do to when she touches me.

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But you see, I’ve respected her wishes, her body language, her distance from touch for her whole life. She was not a cuddly baby. Preferring to sleep in her swing or bouncy seat. To cry it out in her crib than to rock for hours. We bounced her and rocked her and held her for days it seems when she was colicky – but typically she only stopped crying when she was put down and was able to be alone. She was sensitive to touch, she didn’t love to be kissed, and when her baby sister was born – she loved her, but never showered her with affection. While other toddlers were “huggy” and “lovey” – she stood at the wall hoping that no one noticed her. She wasn’t much of a hand holder and tucking her into bed at night was with a quick kiss on the head. Many times, and for years, I tried to push for more. But she politely moved away from me. Until one day I just stopped trying out of respect.

 

Her affection was shown through sly smiles and kind deeds.

 

And for 12 years I’ve respected her space. And my place on the edge of it.

 

Waiting. Hoping.

 

So the past few months have startled me. Her touching me. Her seeking me out. Her telling me she loves me in return. Her wanting me to spend more time with her when I tell her good night. Inviting me to sit on her bed. My leg near her arm touching through the layer of blankets. She talks and I move a hair away from her eyes and she doesn’t stop me. Her want to share more books – and for us to sit so close on the couch as we talk. I find my body almost melting into her now as I feel I’ve waited so long to really get to know her. Yet I don’t want to ask her why.

 

So I project like mothers do. And if I had to guess I think she’s realizing that she needs something from me. That she’s not going to be a girl much longer and sees herself as becoming more like “me” and less like “them” – her sisters. Other children. And maybe, just maybe – getting closer to me will be the key and answers she needs for what’s happening. What it’s like. Or maybe she’s scared. Changes coming. Information overload. And she’s finally reaching for me. Like a baby needing comfort. And a mother finally able to do something emotionally useful.

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And I’m drinking it in like the finest French wine because what if it won’t last. I have no way to know this. To know all of the answers. To know everything or really anything about her. And I respect this woman-child too much to ask. So I just sit and enjoy each moment she will give me.

 

I think that’s what I love the most about parenthood – children are so beautifully unique and individual. They are not me or him. They are them. I can’t project me at 12 or you at 12. I can only just stand back from her or lean forward to hold her as she allows and marvel at how incredible 12 is for her.

 

How at times I see her and still see that curious toddler or that shy girl in kindergarten. But then see someone who at a glance is 17. Her future.

 

How she’s nearly my 5’7″ height and yet I don’t think has even started growing. And how maybe this new affection is because she wants to borrow my scarves and sweaters.

 

How she will never own enough books, and how I used to monitor her reading but now I could never keep up. She brings books to me that she knows I’ll enjoy.

 

How no one will ever have a heart as big as hers.

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Mom, it’s cold

How she’s brilliant at math. LIKE CRAZY brilliant high school math at 11 crazy brilliant at it. And how when I offer to help her with her homework she rolls her eyes at me because she knows I can’t figure out a slope to save my life.

 

How she’s a beautiful dancer.

 

And plays the piano so well I weep.

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How she cares for her friends.

 

And sisters.

 

And keeps up on current events and likes to discuss the wrongs in the world.

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But celebrates the rights.

 

How she is organized and neat and finds my chaos exhausting.

 

How she wants and earns more independence yet is a homebody at heart.

 

How she is forgiving for everything.

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And wakes up each day with a smile.

 

How she loves to play with dolls.

 

Yet she begs for an instagram account and giggles as she texts her friends.

 

How she thinks boys are still pretty gross and stinky.

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How she makes me smile every single time she walks into a room.

 

Whether she leans in for a hug or not.

 

How today she is 12.

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And she teaches me how to be a better mom to her every single day.

 

And how I’ll never feel like I’ve thanked her enough for being just her – in any which way she wants to be.

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Lessons Everywhere

We passed a homeless man as we were walking to our car today. He had numerous bags, a wheeled cart, and he sat on the curb reading his bible aloud. Eloise took the two dollars she had out of her pocket and started to hand it to him even though he had no sign and wasn’t asking. He looked stunned at first but then smiled and said he wanted to read his favorite verse to us.

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“Does he worry that it’s weird to read his book aloud when he knows no one is listening?” Eloise asked

 

I’m guessing that many people do listen. In their own way.

 

“I wish there wasn’t homelessness. It doesn’t make sense to me here in Minnesota when other people have so much. Why does it happen?” She prodded as we now drove home.

 

Many reasons – loss of a job, mental health, a fight with a family member, hopelessness, moving to a new place, a bad relationship, abuse, alcohol.... I answered carefully, but truthfully. It can happen to anyone.

 

“Well we need to find a way to get rid of it altogether.” She said quickly yet kindly and oh so hopeful.

 

Well that’s complicated. How do you think we could do that?

 

“By having the Mayors and Governors and the President helping all of their people thrive.”

 

That takes money – so more taxes for everyone to do this?

 

“Of course, rich people should give more but even just regular people like us should do more and give more and think of other people more everyday. If we all thought like that I bet people wouldn’t be homeless. And then the people who got homes and jobs could pay it forward to other people too – people who still needed homes. But someone has to start. Everyone has to start.”

 

I like the way you think, Eloise.

 

“No one should suffer alone. Do you think he’s alone a lot?”

 

Probably, but I bet he’ll remember you today.

 

“I think I’m going to do something about this soon. Do you think I’m old enough?”

 

More than old enough.

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Local St. Paul Mom Gives Her 11 Year Old An iPhone

It was reported yesterday that local St. Paul mom and blogger, Tracy Morrison, gave her 11 year old daughter an iPhone of her very own. The news broke shortly after school when Tracy’s daughter Eloise sent an email to a friend, and end of the message read “sent from my iPhone.” As all news travels in fifth grade, soon hundreds of tweens across St. Paul learned the news and shared the news of the iPhone with their own parents over dinner that night.

 

“I’m not sure what Tracy was thinking!” Said an anonymous St. Paul mom over the phone when we called for comment. “I thought we had an unwritten pact in this circle of friends that no one would have a phone until junior high. I feel like Tracy is setting a precedence and frankly it’s upsetting to our family.”

 

Hannah Johnson, a good friend of Eloise’s from dance also received an email and then an iMessage from Eloise later last evening, was quoted as saying “Eloise is lucky. Her mom is much nicer than my mom. I cannot believe she got an iPhone. I mean all I have is this iPad Mini that I can’t leave the house with.”

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Hailey, Emma, Emily, Sophia, Maddie, and Eva – all classmates of Eloise, said she was like so lucky, but still had mixed emotions about Eloise being the first of their friends to get an iPhone. They were trying to be happy for her, but at the same time spent most of the evening complaining to their parents as most tween girls do about how life was so unfair for them since they only had a sad little iTouches.

 

We reached out to Emily’s parents for an interview, but they declined to comment yet mentioned something about moving Emily to a convent out East where technology was not allowed.

 

“I think it’s just totally unfair to the other parents that Tracy just went out and did this without first notifying us.” Said Emma’s mother. “I’m really disappointed in the whole thing. I mean it puts undue pressure on the rest of us parents – both financially and socially. Being a tween is already a difficult time – and now Tracy is really making our lives pure hell because of this iPhone.”

 

We sat down with Tracy last night to find out what prompted her to give her 11 year old an iPhone after stating numerous times over the past year that Eloise would not have a phone until she was in junior high. And in fact wrote in her blog in 2012 that “she’d be damned if Eloise would have a phone before she turned 12!”

 

“Well, it certainly wasn’t our plan to give Eloise a phone this early. However, as parents I think we all need to grant ourselves some flexibility with the right to change our minds. A big lesson I’ve learned about parenting is to never say never. Sure you might intend to feed your kids all organic foods – but damn Cheetos are yummy. It’s the same thing with the phone. We’ve always planned to delay this day for as long as possible, but since she turned 11 we’ve been giving her more independence in staying home alone for longer, being able to go off with her friends more, and she has more afterschool activities. She’s also proven herself as incredibly responsible. Quite honestly though, this weekend we called AT&T because they were raping us with our current rates and it turned out we could activate my old cracked iPhone 4 that was just sitting in a drawer and put her on our plan and actually SAVE $40 a month from what we were already paying because it was now a family plan. I call it a win/win.”

 

When asked how Eloise was handling her new responsibility with iPhone ownership, Tracy mentioned that Eloise understood there were many rules on usage with her new phone and she would not have it at school with her nor in her room at home, and that there were many blocks on websites and everything would be tracked carefully.

 

We tried to reach Eloise for comment, but she did not return our calls. Instead we received a text from her with just “…’sup, yo, who r u?” and then a long string of panda emojis. So we think that Eloise is enjoying her iPhone ownership very much.

 

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the kids and parents continue to react and accept the news.

 

–St. Paul Fake Planet News, Mandy Johansson reporting

 

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I’ll Tumblr 4 Ya

Eloise and I have set-up a Tumblr account. Some of you(Mom) are probably now asking “What’s a tumbr account?” And my response to that is “I really have no clue!” Really I don’t. But it seems to be some place where you can just set up an account and then post pictures or short stories or something. It’s like “quick blogging” or something like that. And then you can follow and comment on other tumblr accounts.

 

Or maybe tumblr is nothing like that and I don’t know what I’m doing. Yes, this is probably what the real story is. I have no idea what tumblr is. But I’m using it anyway. Kind of like my iPhone that I only text, take pictures, and email on. Turns out there are these things called apps though that I know nothing about. Jed likes to lecture me about how I don’t use my technology to it’s full capabilities. To which I respond “huh?”

 

So we are on tumblr. And again I don’t know what it is. But there are people who post adorable and hilarious cat pictures…so truly it doesn’t matter what tumblr is as long as there are cute cat pictures! Also, does tumblr know that tumblr is spelled incorrectly? Or is it spelled wrong on purpose and it stands for something? These are things that I ponder as I post pictures of pandas.

 

Because THAT is why we have a tumblr account.

 

PANDAS!

 

Specially Po The Giant Panda that I cannot stop blogging about. So now I’m going to stop blogging about him and tumblr him instead. Is that a verb? I dunno.

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Eloise and I have set-up this Tumblr(is tumblr suppose to have a capital ‘T’?) account where we will post daily pictures and short blurbs about The Life Of Po The Panda.  I think you can follow us or like us there or something. Maybe you can’t. I really don’t know. But pandas make life better – so you need to follow us to improve your life.

 

Eloise just wanted to post cute pictures of Po in our home. But I want to take him places and take pictures out and about to post. Like to Target or out for coffee..and I was all like “Isn’t that a great idea, Eloise! Let’s take Po places!” and in typical tween fashion, Eloise said “Um, okay but you can just do that without me there…”

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She is so not fun. How is that embarrassing? I mean it’s a giant panda. Who would laugh about a giant panda at Target? No one I say!

 

So follow or like us or ignore us or tumblr with us. Or just sing the new Culture Club tune “I’ll tumblr 4 ya” with me every time you go on tumblr.

 

Or do nothing. Just nothing. Because you hate pandas. Don’t be a panda-hater. Tumblr with us.

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I Believe In Magic

“Mommy, I think I’m ready to talk to Santa this year.” Astrid says very quietly one evening after dinner when all of us still gather around the dining room table doing homework, writing, paying bills, and if you are only four years old – coloring.

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“I mean, I will talk to him – but I’ll be standing next to him. Not on his lap. I don’t want to touch him. But I’ll say hi maybe and tell him my name. I want to tell him that I only want a talking scale this year just like the one in Costa Rica so it will yell out “31.2 pounds” all day every day if I want it to. I need to tell him about the scale so I get it. That’s the only thing on my list.”

 

“Maybe it’s a good idea for all three of you to get your Santa lists ready!” I suggest after Astrid’s announcement that she is “Santa-talk ready” this year. “I’ll make reservations for us to visit him this Saturday.

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Eloise looks up from her algebra – stopping mid-problem that has something to do with coefficients and rises and runs and things I no longer understand – and says “Yeah okay Mom, let me get right on that. Ha!”

 

“Ha!?!” I stand and hold my hands up to my heart as if shot and take a deep breath in before responding with a “Santa is watching and he heard what you just said!”

 

“Oh, okay Mom. Let me just get right to that list after I finish my algebra and type-up my endangered animal study paper….”

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I look to Astrid and Esther who have already gotten out plain paper, red markers and stickers and are happily making Santa Lists.

 

And I sit back down hard as I realize she no longer believes. And the hurt takes me by surprise.

 

I mean she’s 11 and all – and maybe you’re thinking “Geesh, it’s about time!” Because maybe that’s what I was thinking a few years back when at eight and nine she still did believe while I figured the whole ‘Santa’ thing out by the time I was five.

 

I continue to sit quietly at the table and glance over my coffee and then I meet Eloise’s eyes. She gives me a quick, small knowing smile and wink before getting back to her work.

 

And I cannot help from almost crying as our eyes meet because I know she gets it. Because even though she may no longer believe in the actual Big Man himself, she still gets the magic of the season and the importance to not give her new found knowledge away to her little sisters.

 

Later that night she hands me her Santa List – which even starts with “Dear, Santa” and ends with “Love, Eloise” – and as she hands it over to me she says “You know just in case you’d like to know what’s on my list too.”

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I smile as she walks away and heads up to bed.  I carefully unfold her letter and read the first two items on her list…

 

-I would like to raise at least $100 to adopt a Panda from WWF to help stop their endangerment.

-I would like Astrid to get the talking scale she wants

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And I know that she still believes in magic because she continues to wish for very good things.

*******

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Do you have a Holiday outfit planned for your little girl for Christmas? I was thrilled to receive the Twinkle Party Dress and matching dress for Bitty Baby from American Girl to review.  Astrid pretty much doesn’t go anywhere without her ‘Baby Anna’ and now they can match when we have breakfast with Santa this weekend. And they can ask for the scale together! In fact Astrid has refused to take her party dress off for the past three days because she feels like a ‘special princess’ and has told me that ‘Baby Anna’ will never wear anything BUT her fancy red dress. So there you go. They love their matching dresses and I about died from the cute. I think Santa will be equally impressed this weekend and now we don’t have to stress about what to wear on Christmas eve.

 

If you haven’t purchased your Holiday Dress yet and you have a little one who loves AG – I for sure recommend these cute sets! I am a HUGE fan of American Girl as you know – for celebrating girls and sending a positive message to our kids…so having these special dresses for Astrid and ‘Baby Anna’ is just a bit of sweet icing on the cake for us.

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Eleven

She’s been exceptionally quiet lately. And she hates when you ask her what’s wrong.

 

Because nothing is apparently wrong. She’s just quiet. Reserved. Introspective. Thinking.

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She is much like me(and her father at times), and can really go days without really talking much or seeking out the company of others.
And introvert maybe. Indeed.

 

Yet she is the best friend you will ever have. Loyal to the death, giving, loving, listening and being there.

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As she also is with her sisters. She gives them time that we don’t expect of her or anyone really, as well as her patience and gift of looking outside of herself always for the needs of others.

 

My biggest worry for Eloise is that she won’t even someday(or now) take the time for herself completely selfishly nor ask for what she really wants.

 

Making Christmas lists are a chore for her and for many birthday parties she asks for donations for a cause rather than gifts.

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And she’s been unable to tell us what she really wants for her birthday this year. And I know this is part of the ‘really quiet’ week she has had. As I think she knows what she wants but it feels wrong, selfish, and silly to ask for something for herself. I know she wants a laptop so she doesn’t have to borrow mine daily anymore. She now needs to type and do research for school and I’ve let her set-up an email account. But she would never ask for one. Ever. Something that seems so big. Extravagant. Unnecessary. (In full disclosure she has asked to go to Paris, France for her 13th birthday – but considers it an education experience as he wants to go to the museums and work on her language skills. And maybe she is being kind and thoughtful asking years in advance so we can save up for the trip :).

 

She’s probably the last of her friends to own a piece of technology and it doesn’t bother her. She has thousands of books and many American Girl dolls and enjoys the company of her little sisters.

 

But she’s 11 today. And caught between this world of childhood and becoming a teen.

 

With what I see is no real hurry to grow-up. And I am so thankful for that. For her.

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Eloise is one of the smartest, most thoughtful, kind, loving, giving and beautiful people I’ve ever met. And yet I know she doesn’t think she is any of those things.

 

To her she is just a girl. Who happens to turn 11 today. And she’ll do it very, very quietly.

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Happy 11th Birthday, Eloise. My love, my daughter, my friend, my teacher, my first guide in this amazing journey of motherhood.

 

May all of your (very very very quiet) wishes come true. xoxoxo

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The Wake-Up

I was supposed to wake-up Eloise about 10 minutes ago. But I’m letting her sleep even though it will mean she will be mad at me. She likes to get up about two hours before the bus comes so she can do extra homework and read and organize her backpack and eat a healthy breakfast and put together the perfect outfit. It’s also about the only 15 minutes each day that I get just with her. But maybe that annoys her because she sits at the table all busy and I ask her 100 questions and maybe she just prefers the quiet of our morning routine and I should just sip my coffee and read Facebook as we sit across from each other.

 

And I wonder when(if) she will ask if she can have coffee for breakfast. I was 12 when I first asked. I used to dunk Oreo cookies in my coffee in those mornings before junior high.

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I considered myself very capable of both school and life by the time I was 10 or 11 – much like my oldest daughter. But I screwed around a lot too. Sometimes I worry that Eloise doesn’t have enough fun. She’s so serious and proper and kind. All of the good things, but she worries a lot.

 

At 10 years old and in 5th grade she goes to 7th grade for math(algebra) and has told me that she feels like she isn’t doing all the great in the class….and I hate seeing her worry. But her report card last week revealed an A+. I’m not sure how she thinks she can do better. But it worried me. Also, now we do algebraic equations at the dinner table and Jed smiles this cute smile because we are both kind of math geeks and it’s like the best dinner conversation ever. Unless you don’t like math. She also leaves hexaflexagons all over the house.

 

I hope her dates(when she is 16) like hexaflexagons better than cheap beer.

 

Eloise made dinner this week – the whole thing – homemade chicken strips, potatoes, salad and rolls. Also brownies for dessert. She’s anxious to have permission to walk to the grocery store alone soon. But it’s across two busy streets and also ALONE is a big and heavy word right now.

 

And I know that we could leave her in charge of her sisters for two weeks and life would function beautifully and normally(but we’d never do that…fyi) and that makes me both proud of her and worried for her.

 

As her beautiful, thoughtful, caring, insightful, and capable personality will probably never change – nor should it – but once in awhile I wish she’d give herself permission to sleep-in.

 

But for now I need to go wake her so I can stare at her and smile in wonder of what a beautiful person she is.

 

And I hate when she gets mad at me.

 

Maybe I need to buy some Oreos.

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Back To School

The big kids went back to school this week.

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And I miss them.

 

Or Astrid misses them. And Truffle – dang Truffle cat misses them a lot because now Astrid has no one to play with, so Truffle has to wear stuffed animals on his back and try to put together puzzles. And he’s really bad at puzzles because he doesn’t have thumbs. So he was fired yesterday as Astrid’s playmate and she asked me to step-in.

Save me!

Save me!

I also suck at puzzles. Also, I’m horrible at playing Little People. And her dress-up costumes don’t fit me. She also doesn’t think I’m very good at reading. You see she and Eloise were trying to get through all of Roald Dahl’s books this Summer and they didn’t quite finish The BFG yet – so she asked me to read a chapter. And I guess I really suck at reading…so Astrid told me to stop because Eloise does voices better and I’m super boring.

 

So I’m apparently not good for anything but fixing snacks and wiping her butt.

 

Other than that – Astrid wishes that her sisters never had to go to school.

 

I’m feeling that way too. I miss them. We had an amazing Summer. From roadtrips, to camps, to days at the pool, and cool nights of riding our bikes to ice cream – this Summer might go down as one of the best.

 

Which just means that I am going to plan for The Super Sucky Summer of 2014 – because I don’t want to miss my kids next Fall when school starts again.

 

Because it hurts.

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But the girls are back in the school-grove and seem crazy happy just living their fancy school lives without us. They missed their friends I think. And maybe they were sick of me nagging them to clean their rooms.

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(Eloise is wearing jeggings and booties from Justice, a top from Nordstrom and we hand-painted her panda nails)

Eloise loves fifth grade and has an awesome teacher. In Eloise’s words – and in one really really long run-on sentence “Seriously, my teacher is amazing – she is super strict – which is so awesome because you know I love class control and someone who is organized and structured and keeps the crazy boys inline – and she’s is totally that kind of teacher…AND the best part is that we get homework every night – even weekends and we have to write a three page essay the first night of school – this is like crazy amazing and I really love my teacher and it’s going to be the best year ever and I’m going to my room now to do my homework so don’t bother me and I hope we get even more homework tomorrow and I’m going to work on some extra math tonight because I am going to try to get placed in 7th grade math this year because I want more work and to learn more and always be challenged.”

 

Mon Dieu.

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(Esther is wearing a dress and jacket from Justice. Sandals are Lelli Kelly)

Eloise loves third grade and her teacher is also super amazing. Esther didn’t have much to say except that she had two recesses and they had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch. Also, her old boyfriend is in her class and she giggled a lot about that because she still likes him, but he likes Ruby better now, but Ruby is Esther’s friend – so it’s okay that he likes her. And she played with lots of friends at the playground and they chased and stuff and she needs to wear bike-shorts under her skirt tomorrow because she wants to climb on top of the monkey bars. Also, they had popcorn for snack and Maggie got cool new shoes and she’s looking forward to music class.  Also, a boy said bad words on the bus, so she moved seats. Obviously.

 

I think maybe Esther also had math, reading and other such school subjects – but those were not mentioned.

 

So happy school year everyone!

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Finish Strong

“Did you win, Mommy?” Were Astrid’s first words as she walked in the door Saturday at noon and immediately reached up so her arms could wrap around me. “I missed you.” She whispered as her mouth met my ear.

 

“No, Baby, I didn’t win.” I answered. “But I wasn’t trying to win. I was just happy to finish strong.”

 

“Oh Mom, that’s too bad.” Esther said as she hugged me around my waist and I kissed the top of her head.

 

Eloise gave me her typical kind of ‘lean-in to touch shoulders with me, almost a high-five, bend her head down to meet mine, and then turn away quickly’ pseudo tween hug and said “Good job anyway, Mom. Do you know the person who won?”

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Their innocent faith in my abilities made my heart grow 50 sizes in that short, shared moment. Because honestly winning was never in my game-plan, training plan, mind-set, physical abilities or truthfully even a pipe-dream that I’ve ever had.

 

I just wanted to finish the race with a decent time, not last, and without poop in my shorts.

 

Kind of like I just want us all to reach bedtime each day alive..and maybe clean. My goals are small, short-term and I hope doable.

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That’s how I tackle motherhood, because frankly the daily defeats would leave me frustrated and depressed.

 

So my mantra each day of motherhood is just to finish strong.

 

I mean sure we want good things each day – a favorite meal, a new book, to run around outside in the sprinkler with friends and to go on a bike ride. Maybe we got to watch our favorite show, taught our cat a new trick or went out for ice cream.

 

Good things happen along the route each day of our race – the fans clap, we get water, someone yells our name tells us we are doing awesome. But that still doesn’t make me win or even give me the will to want to win.

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It just gives me the will to keep going – even on those very hard days and miles that I just want to quit – one foot in front of the other, waffle toasted, one more dish put away, shirt folded, bo0-boo kissed, pictured colored, lunch packed, lap snuggled, tooth brushed, goodnight kiss.

 

Because this motherhood road is long and winding with finishers medals that look like clay hand-prints for Christmas trees and smudges on light switches..and juice boxes remains that we drink instead of champagne.

 

And I will never be a winner in this race – but for my children, I vow to try to always finish strong for them each day. Because they believe I can.

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And to hopefully I will do it without poop in my pants.

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Ode To The Little Toilet Paper Pieces

I bought Eloise a razor last week. She mentioned to me that she hates the long black hair covering her legs, and since her skin is quite porcelain, well you probably understand just how that looks. I’ve never mentioned her leg hair before and she’s never asked me about why I shave my legs, but suddenly she just said “I hate that Esther has thin blond hair on her legs that just kind of blends into her skin, and I have to deal with this. It’s embarrassing.”  So I asked her if she wanted to start shaving her legs to remove it – but warned her that once she starts – that this is a lifelong ‘thing’ – just like brushing your teeth or combing your hair – you will continually have to remove the hair on your legs. Unless she wants to go back to 1968 – which would be kind of awesome. And also, she’ll eventually realize how awesome Minnesota living is, because we pretty much can take a ‘pass’ on leg shaving from October until April. Of course ‘I’ would never take that break though.

 

I remember being excited when my mom FINALLY let me start shaving my legs. Truth be told I probably asked her to start when I was five at the same time I asked about where babies came from…and she put off the full truth of both of those subjects until I was in fifth grade. I can still picture the bathtub in our old brick ranch house and how one evening my mom showed me how to shave my own legs. And also how to rip little pieces of toilet paper off the roll to put on the many cuts on my leg as it’s the most effective way to stop the bleeding.

 

So I expected Eloise to be excited to start shaving her legs, but she doesn’t get excited about anything but new books. She just quietly said ‘okay’ as I told her I’d get her a razor. And now she hasn’t asked about it again. I worry about our communication and that I’m not exactly what she needs. I was such a “tell me everything RIGHT NOW!” kind of girl and Eloise is more of a “tell me as little as possible and when you do have to tell me, just say it quietly through the door and maybe in another language so I don’t completely understand, and no, don’t even buy me a book about it, because I don’t want to read about things like that either.”

 

So this road of adolescence we are on is both confusing and quiet. Especially when we must deal with the hairy legs.

 

And I have a feeling that she won’t even let me show her how to shave her legs – she’s more of a trial and error all by herself girl – which scares me when deadly weapons are involved. Will she even let me show her the toilet paper trick?

Last year, after I tried to talk to her about how her body will change, and she decided that was the stupidest conversation ever, I bought a journal for us to write notes to each other as I know Eloise and I are women with few spoken words – but we both love to read and write.

 

So I lovingly wrote her a heartfelt letter in the first page of our shared journal about how I was looking forward to reading her words and answering any questions she had or even just using it for writing jokes, silly pictures and funny stories. This journal would be private between just us for as long as she wanted to talk this way.

 

Eloise returned the journal the next day with the words “I don’t want to do this.”

 

And while living in denial is glorious for awhile…reality will eventually bite your ass so hard that I fear the road to be traveled will be bumpier than it needs to be. Ripping off a band-aid in the future is much more painful than the comfort of a your mom applying a square of toilet paper to softly soak up the blood.

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Is your tween ready to shave her legs? Here’s what I’ve learned over the last few weeks..and seriously, are we ever experts at anything? NOT! And remember every child is different. And so is every mother.

1. I don’t think there’s an ‘age’ guideline that you can follow for this important right of passage for womanhood…ask yourself and her..

Does her leg hair bother her? Does she ask about removing it? Let her lead the conversation.

Do you think(and ask her) is she responsible enough to take on this commitment of hair removal.

Do you think(and ask her) is she ready to handle a razor. (I still question my razor abilities at 44 years old).

Most people report that their daughters(and they) started shaving their legs sometime between age 10 and 13. But try to have a conversation BEFORE she tries to shave her own legs! How many of us did this when we were girls???

2. How will the leg hair be removed – this is also at your(and her) discretion..

I personally am not a fan of chemical removal products(like Nair,etc) and won’t have my daughter handling them as a tween.

I think there are so many ‘safer’ type razor options now like Venus or Intuition – and it’s time to say good-bye to that pink Bic disposable that your mother gave you in 1979.

I am not going to even bring up waxing or lasers or the EPILADY (OMG – did you have one in 1990? I still remember having to get drunk in college just to use that sucker), as those are choices she can make for herself when she is older and has her own money to deal with hair in her own way.

 

At what age did your tween ask to start shaving her legs?

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Just Eat The Damn Chocolate

“But Mom, we can’t take the last two.” Eloise said quietly so the lady behind the counter would not hear her.

 

“Eloise, we can buy the last two pain au chocolat. Trust me, it will be fine.” I answered in a voice slightly louder than hers as we moved to the front of the line at the bakery.

 

“But what if the people in line behind us really want those and we take them…just think how disappointed they would be. I don’t think I can live with that guilt.” Eloise frowned and then looked to the floor.

 

“Eloise, but we are next in line so we get dibs on the chocolate. That’s why we came to this bakery – JUST for two pain au chocolat and voila there are two left and they can be OURS! It’s good karma that we buy them. They are meant to be ours! Do you not see this as a sign?” I giggled slightly thinking about how we’ve waiting in line for 15 minutes and now cannot buy the pastries.

 

“It just doesn’t feel right. Maybe we should just ask some of the people behind us if they are planning on ordering them and then if they say no, it’s okay for us to order them.” Eloise inquired.

 

“Eloise, there are 15 people behind us and odds are that yes, they want the chocolate..but we are here FIRST and they’ve been selling them all day and now at 1:45..they have two left and they are OURS! We win!”

 

Ladies can I help you with something?

 

“Eloise we need to order.”

 

“I really want the pain au chocolat, but at this point they just would not taste right. I don’t think it’s ever right to take the last one of anything at anytime.  I can’t. We can just come back earlier tomorrow when they have more and then it won’t feel so wrong.” Eloise started towards the door already basically giving our pastries to the line behind us.

 

“So, do you want to order something else today, I mean since we are here?” My stomach rumbled thinking about French Pastries NOT IN MY STOMACH!

 

“No, let’s just leave the rest to the line behind us. It was just a treat anyway that I didn’t really need…it was more of a ‘would be really nice to have’ and now I’m not really hungry anymore.” Eloise said over her shoulder as she pushed the shop door open, the door bells ringing over the last of her words.

 

“You know, somebody has to take the last pain au chocolats because they won’t keep until tomorrow. Bakeries are happy when they sell-out. We are doing a great service by buying them!” I made one last attempt to order something.

 

“I know, and I’m sure they’ve already sold them by now and I just know that person is happy.” Eloise smiled now as I caught up to her and met her stride for stride down the sidewalk towards our car.

 

“You made that person happy, you know? Which is wonderful..but you know sometimes it’s okay to make yourself happy too. I need to you to know that. Actually, it’s pretty damn important to make yourself happy. I don’t want you to be the only one who gives. Let someone spoil you sometimes. Please.”

 

“Mom, I don’t like when you use bad words.”

 

“Gah, seriously, that wasn’t my point! Well I want you to know that you are such a good person – and your heart is always in the right places – helping others and thinking of others and always being kind…but I need to you to make me a promise, okay? Well, two promises…”

 

“Okay.”

 

“The first is that you will do at least one thing each week that makes YOU happy, because I totally believe that if you are not happy, you cannot serve others like I know you want to do. And the second thing is – please let me swear once in awhile because swearing makes me happy. I don’t know why it does…but it does…so just politely ignore me or I won’t buy you anymore pain au chocolat. You got it?”

 

“Mom, you are so weird…and I need to think about this deal.”

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What Happens After You’ve Read All Of The Books?

This is what Eloise wants to know. We are on day 54 of summer and Eloise has already read more than 50 books. All of them have been at least 250 pages long, and some have been in the 700 page range. And the girl has been swimming, playing and just generally enjoying her summer(and not shut in her room reading). She reads when she walks, when she talks, when she eats, when riding in the car, when on the swing-set, and probably when sleeping once I close the door.

 

This is nothing new. Eloise has always liked to read. I haven’t read a book to Eloise since she was five, because “Mom, I can do a better job.” and I don’t think she really views reading as a group effort. I hear about parents reading chapter books with their ‘reading’ kids and I wonder if I’m suppose to do that…but then when I’ve started one, I get the “yeah, I’d rather just go enjoy this book on my own look,” and so I don’t try that anymore.

I also admit I rarely read to Astrid anymore, as Eloise or Esther volunteer happily for that job. (And not to forget Esther, she has read 25 books this summer already, including reading all 13 Series of Unfortunate Events books).

 

But Eloise’s question now, with 29 days before school starts and the possibility to read at least 25 more books – “What is there to read now that I’ve read all of the books?”

 

When I was 10/11/12 years old,  I remember re-reading all my books, all of the time. I thought it was because I just loved them so much…but now I realize that my parents just decided not to buy me all of the books, because books are expensive. I mean, we had the library – but truthfully I remember how horrible our library was. I remember books written in 1936 and books without covers. So I think maybe my parents would just gift me books for my birthday and Christmas and I would read them over and over and over again…until I could buy my own books when I was a teenager.

 

With Eloise, I can’t say no to books. And that $6.99 for every Nook Book from Barnes and Nobles adds up quickly. And that’s only after we’ve searched every library and discount and used book store and thrift store for that book first. I think I’ve spent more in gas and time driving to every library and bookstore in our city..that sometimes that $6.99 just seems worth it. Until you realize that 50 books times $6.99 is …well… a lot.

 

And if she keeps reading at this pace, well we will have to use the book to shelter our family – which kind of sucks now that we’ve gone digital.

 

But now Eloise has read all of the books. I went back to Eloise’s favorite book list on this post and your comments from December to see if there were more ideas for books to read…but she’s read them all. We’ve now stumped six librarians in our area(and two were less than kind once they could not help us find a book). And we’ve spent a crazy amount of time looking for ideas on the goodreads and commonsense websites…and still, we are out of books.

 

And I’ve reached the point where I wonder if she’s ready for my V.C. Andrews collection that I read and re-read when I was 11…and 12 and 13.

 

But she’s not 11 yet.

 

And that is the problem.

 

We’ve reached a point where mature subject matter becomes an issue when choosing an age appropriate book. I mean Eloise has read The Hunger Games and similar series like Divergent…but then what…

 

Sex. When books talk about sexuality and context where we haven’t yet gone yet….then what….

 

And until she’s a fifth grader and 11 and seems ready to tackle that(believe me, I’ve tried to bring it up)…then I think maybe she really has read all of the books that there are to read.

 

And maybe she can re-read a few or a 100 until she’s ready to tackle some more mature subject matters.

 

And then maybe my wallet and our 12 weekly trips to the library can catch a break.

 

And it will give me time to save-up..because once she goes over this hump and the next group of books fill her bookshelves – the Young Adult and the Teen Fiction…well, we will be back to her reading 20-30 books a month again.

 

And I’ll be looking for book recommendations from you. So get your lists ready.

 

So for now, Eloise will just have to continue asking “What happens after you’ve read all of the books?” Because I think that she really has.

 

And I’ll kindly remind her that it’s a really good problem to have.

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New Direction

Eloise is mad at me. I was talking about her last night, in front of her, and I was actually telling a story about something she did that I was PROUD of…but it didn’t matter. Eloise doesn’t like to be the center of attention – good or bad, and she’s sick of reminding me that I should never talk about her.

 

Kids don’t understand how difficult that is to do.

 

So, I’ve decided to blog about her. Ha! Kidding. She’s told me that I cannot blog about her either. Which I know until she’s in her mid-20s or so, she won’t understand my need to blog about the little stories in our lives. Because it’s not just about her, what she does, what they do, what I do, touches all of us. It’s all of our stories melded together that create a family.

 

So I currently call ownership.

But to try to give Eloise some privacy, instead I’d like to talk about her while talking about Ohio. Specifically drivers from Ohio.

 

Before I get started though, I’d like you to take a little driving quiz:

Question: The left lane of a freeway is for…

A. Driving at any speed you would like – especially below the speed limit! And you can drive in this lane even if you are not actively passing anyone on the right, and it’s especially fun to drive in the left lane when you have a line of 20 cars behind you because they can’t get around you because you’ve decided to drive the exact speed of the car on your right. Bonus points for slowing down below the speed limit so people actually have to pass you on the right, but then right when they almost have enough room to sneak around in front of you, you then speed up so they cannot pass.

B. Actively passing vehicles in the right line. Slower traffic is to keep right.

 

I love you Ohio, but OMG really, THE ANSWER IS NOT ‘A!” Why are you all in the left lane? So, for the three and half hours that I drove through Ohio on Sunday, I ‘may’ have just used every swear word that I know about 5000 times. Basically I just said “What the F%$#” the whole time through Ohio. At one point I even had to play Carol King to try to relax my mind.

 

IT DID NOT WORK!

So, for three and half hours Eloise told me to watch my language. I told her that from now on, Ohio gives me a free pass to swear and even she can swear and I won’t get mad because OMFG OHIO DRIVERS!!!!

 

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If you want to read more about Eloise(but don’t tell her that I sent you..because shhh, I don’t talk about her), I’d love for you to read my piece on Mamalode this week. I wrote about our goodbyes as she left for camp, and maybe to let you all know – those of you in those toddler and preschool trenches which kids who are separating from you for the first time and IT’S HARD and you truly believe you’ll have to attend the prom with them…well, it does get better.

 

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Why I Still Shop At Abercrombie & Fitch

I’m going to talk about Abercrombie because I like to talk about things at least a month or two after all the scandal happens and everyone else has moved on with their lives. I’m like that really bitchy wife, that after you have a fight one time, about two years later she brings up allthatshit again and you are like “what the what!?” because you don’t even remember that fight.

So that’s me, and I want to talk about the controversy surrounding the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch and why my daughter still wears their clothing. First of all, I want to make sure that everyone knows that it’s “Fitch” not “Finch” because sometimes my mom calls it that. Second of all, I think CEO Mike Jeffries’ comment from 2006 was a real douche-hattery thing to say. Seriously. So wrong. He wins the award for biggest Douche-Hattery thing to say of the decade. This is not debatable.

 

Now, I have a background in marketing and I know that every company has a strategy – just like A&F has their own strategy at the key demographics they go after. I get that…but “..cool..attractive kids with lots of friends…and a lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” When did that become a demographic and when did a 60 year old man become such a jerk and no wonder why there are so many things going wrong with our society.

And before I even read Mr. Jeffries crazy-ass statement, I didn’t even like shopping at A&F. Mainly because of the smell of cologne and the loud music and overpriced clothing – it was just sensory overload for me and I had to leave the store or I would pass-out. I’m sure there’s some kind of ‘Mom shopped at A&F and now she’s dead’ syndrome or something. I know it’s happened.

 

And then…and then..it was the oversexualization of tween and teen girls – provocative advertising and signage and 12 year olds in string bikinis that would barely cover my three year old and her tiny tush.

 

So when I found myself shopping at A&F last year for the first time – let’s just say that Mama took a step back to try to figure out just what that hell she was doing. So, of course I did what everyone does when they go completely against their value system and what they believe in, I didn’t talk about it. Kind of like the way my grandmother handled the sex talk with her children.

But…but..but… I had no choice.

 

Because you go and find an affordable pair of jeans that are not from Abercrombie & Fitch to fit my daughter. I challenge you.

 

My daughter is 10. She doesn’t consider herself a cool and attractive kid. Does she have lots of friends? Sure, but not because of what she wears, but because she is one of the most giving people that I know. She’s a good friend – to everyone, without discrimination. Her main pastimes are reading, writing stories, dancing and playing with her sisters and her cat. She helps out around the house, volunteers to unload the dishwasher and likes to get her sister ready for bed. She plays with the little neighborhood kids and wants to find homes for every stray cat in the world. Her head is full of stories to write and tell, and instead of reading her baby sister a book – she’ll make-up a new story for her. She’s shy and a little self-conscience, but I think happy with herself inside and out, and she’s growing up.

 

She’s also five feet tall and 56 pounds..and healthy. She’s been in the 90th percentile for height and 5th percentile for weight since the day she was born. She eats..and eats..and eats..healthy stuff and junk stuff..and she is healthy and happy, just with a thin body structure.

But I’ll be damned if I can find a pair of jeans to fit this girl. Gap slim jeans look like baby diapers on her because I have to pull the elastic adjusters in so far. Justice slim jeans don’t adjust so they just fall off her hips. 77 Kids jeans fall apart(sorry, I really wanted to love your store), Target doesn’t make jeans in slim sizes – which is actually quite typical. At one point I went to Nordstrom’s and had her try on designer($100 – WTF) jeans thinking they must be made for slim girls – but no, they hung right off her.

 

So we found ourselves at A&F to try on jeans….and damn if their slim super skinny jeans didn’t fit her like a glove…and they were not $100 or even $70 or even $50 – in fact they usually have a 40% off code going on and I’ve never paid more than $28 for a pair of jeans from them – and I stock-up when I find them for under $20.

 

And my girl put those on and almost bounced out of the dressing room yelling “Mom, these fit! These fit! I don’t need a belt, they won’t fall off and I LOVE THEM!!” Not “I’ll be the coolest girl in class with these jeans.”

 

She just wanted a pair of jeans that she felt comfortable wearing.

 

Don’t we all?

 

We always talk about how clothes don’t make us, it’s what’s inside that counts. Are you happy and healthy and kind…that’s what’s important..not what you wear.

 

But you know, the clothing industry isn’t worth billions for nothing. We’ve all spent time in dressing rooms looking for that perfect fitting dress, pair of jeans and swimsuit. And I admit that I feel better about myself when I know my clothes fit well. We don’t go out naked, and truly clothes serve a bigger purpose than just as a covering in today’s society. Right or wrong.

But my daughter doesn’t shop places for popularity or fame…she shops at A&F because their clothing fits her.

 

And I don’t need to justify that, because I know what a good kid she is….and she’s so beautiful inside, and that’s what we focus on. But yeah, she’s a good kid wearing a pair of jeans that make her feel good too.

So I’m coming out to let you know that we shop at Abercrombie & Fitch, even though their CEO is a douche..and they sell inappropriate bikinis.

 

Forgive me.

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A Snapshot

There are a few snapshots that just live in my brain from moments in my life. They are the ones that no one could and would think to capture with film, but moments that are more vivid in color, clarity and memories than any photographs that I own.

 

Not all of those snapshots are life-changing or seemingly that important, but they are the memories that come back to me most often and sometimes makes me laugh or cry with their details. Like the day when I was three years old and the clown chased me down the sidewalk in front of our home in Fargo. I remember the bright red of my tricycle that I peddled quickly away, and how the cool damp sheets felt on the line when I then ran into our neighbor’s backyard and hid amongst them. Or when our adolescent and crazy puppy ran out of the house and through the neighborhood and across the highway – the sight of all of us neighborhood kids chasing this dog forever trying to get him home. We were barefoot and in cut-offs and the boys without shirts on a hot Summer day as we ran around and laughed for hours as we chased the dog. Or more importantly, the snapshot of seeing my aunt for the first time after my uncle’s death. I still see her when I enter the church and how I don’t think I’ve hugged anyone that hard ever in my whole life and how strong she seemed as she wanted to stand with me and hold my hand when I went to say good-bye to him. Those mental photographs of moments of minutes of my life will always remain.

 

But the picture that shows the brightest, the most often, and in the most exact details of the moment – was on a quiet and unusually cold December 7, 2002 when I called my mom.

 

“Mom, Mom” I sobbed into the phone quietly for fear of Jed hearing me from downstairs.

 

“Tracy, what is it? Are you home?” She responded quickly. Worried.

 

“Mom, they let me take her home. They did. I don’t know why they let me take her home. They should not have let me take her home. We’re home. I don’t want to be home.” I continued to sob as I sat on the floor with my new baby in the empty room that was to become Eloise’s nursery.

I had only moved back to The States from The Netherlands a few weeks ago. I was 33 weeks pregnant, our house was under construction and we assumed we had nearly two months to finish the job. We decided to not move in any furniture, for the dust, so we camped out in one bedroom and ate take-out. I went to work everyday and Jed worked on the house. During this time I slowly tried to figure out what I needed for a baby – I ordered a crib and glider rocker, a few outfits in size 0-3 months and assumed that we were all set. We were busy with the house and work and with me acclimating to American life that the thought of diapers, blankets and a few burbs cloths didn’t even enter my mind as something a baby needed. We did not sign up for baby or birth classes and I’m truly lucky that I at least made a doctors appointment for my 36 week check-up.

 

Eloise was born the day of my 36 week check-up. My fluid was nearly gone and she was in distress and she was born quickly after my appointment via emergency c-section. There was no time for buying diapers or getting a crib delivered, for finishing a kitchen or realizing that Eloise wouldn’t be wearing 0-3 months clothes until she was nearly 6 months old. So to say that each day that we had to stay in the hospital was a blessing to me, would be an understatement, as by day four I had plans to decorate my hospital room and stay forever. I watched the nurses expertly handle, care for and love-up my less than five pound baby girl with their gentle and quick hands and knowledge…while when it was my turn I fumbled and shook and was afraid she would break. She had trouble latching, she squirmed when I tried to put those teeny preemie diapers on her, and giving her a bath scared me as much as the thought of going scuba diving in the Red Sea. And I know the nurses giggled a bit at me – this 34 year old first time mother – so unprepared for this day. Which is why I thought they would let us stay forever – or at least until I could give her a bath without yelling “OMG I’m going to drop the baby!”

 

But they didn’t. On day five, when Eloise finally got the hang of latching on, and I could change a diaper on at least my third try, they kicked us out. She was healthy, but only 4 pounds 11 ounces and honestly looked like the size of a good meal for our large cat. Yet they still sent us home.

 

And the first thing I did was climb the stairs against their orders since I had just had a c-section, put swaddled Eloise upon the floor of her empty nursery, shut the door quietly, and called my mother.

 

“Well Tracy, you couldn’t stay in the hospital forever. You’ll be fine.” She softly said.

 

“But what, what do I do with her? What do I do now?” I whimpered, hugging my knees as I sat next to my sleeping daughter.

 

“Just do what Eloise needs you to do. Feed her, rock her, change her, kiss her. She’ll let you know when she needs something. Trust me.” My mom answered gently.

 

“But we don’t have anything – diapers, clothes, a bed, a stove, food, nothing! I need things and stuff for babies!” I panicked wondering if it were still possible for Jed to take us back to the hospital. “Mom, I don’t think they should’ve let us out yet!”

 

“Tracy, you’ll be fine. Babies don’t need anything more than a warm set of arms, to eat, and a few dozen diapers. You’ll be fine. She’ll be fine. You can do this. Eloise will teach you how to do this.” She said with more confidence than I felt.

 

“I think you should fly in early. I don’t think I can wait until the 19th, Mom.” I begged.

 

“Tracy, you’ll be fine. You don’t really need me. I’ll see you in two weeks. Trust me, it will all be okay.” She answered.

 

Eloise started stirring then, her little mouth rubbing against the soft blanket as she looked for food. I scooped her up from the floor in my left arm as I cradled the phone on my right shoulder.

 

“I have to go, Mom. Eloise is waking up and I think she’s hungry.” I said as I was already starting to position Eloise across my lap to nurse.

 

“You know, Tracy, Eloise doesn’t care that she doesn’t have a nursery or a crib or a kitchen or a stroller or clothes that fit or any of that stuff. That stuff is just stuff. Eloise just needs you. Know that, okay. Just be her mom..today and every day…and whether she’s five days or, five years old, or 34 – she’ll be the one to let you know what she needs from you, her mom. Just listen and you’ll do everything just fine and be everything that you need to be. Just listen, okay Mom.” She said sweetly as we said our good-byes and hung-up.

 

Some 10 years later I still play that conversation back in my mind, because it’s true. Whether dealing with newborn needs, toddler tantrums, navigating grade-school homework, or tween angst – my best role is just to listen to them and they’ll guide me with what they really need.

 

Just like my mom did for me on that cold December afternoon. That day, even though it was five days after my daughter was born, was the day that I really became a mother.

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

 

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She’s Stronger Than Me

I have many worries for my daughters – will they be good people, will they help others, will they do well in school, will they never live in my basement, will they have a good haircut that matches their face, and of course will they please never wear capri pants. You know, the typical mom worries that we all have.

 

My biggest worry is that they will become doormats, and if they do it is completely all my fault. I hear the things I repeat to them over and over: “Serve and yours will come.” “Never be first in line.” “Share everything.” “Use your manners.” “Offer up yours to a friend.” “Look for people who are sitting alone.” “Wait for others.” “Never take the first piece.” “Never take the last piece.” “Always stop to help.” “Be the first to ask a friend what is wrong.” “Walk away from violence, but protect a friend.”

 

I mean sure, I tell them that no one is allowed to touch them without their permission or get in their space, and that no one has the right to hurt them. But mainly I tell them to wait their turn before standing their ground.

 

My advice works perfectly at home as, and I know this sounds weird, my children do not fight. They share their toys, and take turns watching shows, they play together perfectly, and serve each other meals.

 

In theory it seems my advice would make the world a perfect place to be – but since it’s not possible to mother all of the world – my advice mainly falls flat because sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself.

 

Which I honestly never have done. So lately I had been trying to figure out how to give my children better advice…. “How to stand up for yourself politely, but still mean business.”

 

As it turns out that maybe they’ve already figured that out all on their own.

 

Another parent mentioned that his first grader got upset a few weeks ago by what a fourth grader said or did on the bus, and he wondered if my kids had said anything to me. He said that this boy had written some bad words on the bus seat and then was showing the other kids the words and was saying the words to the littler kids. His daughter came home and of course asked what the words meant.  The parents just kind of let it go as annoying but harmless kid stuff, but recently asked their daughter again if he was still doing it, and she told him that he just suddenly stopped and now rides the bus very quietly, which is weird because even before the incident, he was a very loud kid.

 

So yesterday I asked Eloise if anyone ever did anything on the bus that bothered her or the other kids.

 

“Well, no not really. Just typical silly boy stuff sometimes, but I just tell them that they are annoying and to stop.” She responded.

 

Has anyone even said bad words on the bus?

 

Pause. “Well, yes, Michael*** was writing really bad words on the seats for awhile and then saying them too. And then he would ask the little kids to listen to him saying the bad words.”

 

Did you tell him to stop or go to the bus driver?

 

“Yes, I did both. I told him to stop and I told the bus driver. The bus driver told me to go sit down and didn’t listen to me at all..and I told him two different times about it.”

 

You know you can tell you teacher or principal too, right? And me. We can make something inappropriate stop on the bus.

 

“I know. But I already took care of it.”

 

What do you mean by that?

 

“Well, I told Michael that he wasn’t allowed to say those things or write those things or ruin property like that. That I wasn’t going to allow it. And then I got really close to his face and I looked right in his eyes and I told him that from now on I was the boss of him and since I was the oldest of the 1st-4th graders in the front of the bus, that I was in charge and we weren’t going to listen to him be mean anymore, and that I would protect all the kids on the bus before he hurt them or say things that were bad, and he was to sit there and say nothing for the rest of the school year..because if he didn’t – well he would have to answer to me. And now all I have to do is look at him and he behaves.”

 

Well next time, if the bus driver won’t help you, you should really tell me and your teacher, okay.

 

“Well this time I’ve got this, Mom.”

 

And I think she really does.

 

***Not his real name.

 

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Finding Beauty

Eloise got her braces off yesterday. These were her phase one braces that stayed on for six months. She now has a retainer and then will get her phase two braces around age 13 or so when she has all of her adult teeth.

Phase one basically expanded her mouth so her teeth would fit and also straightened out her existing adult teeth top and bottom. Mainly the teeth in the front – that you can see.

 

Eloise is home from school today because she’s been crying almost non-stop from the pain of the retainer and it’s given her a headache.

 

And she’s screamed more than once at me “Why do I have to do this?! I don’t want straight teeth! Crooked teeth are just fine!! What’s the big deal about straight teeth? It’s not worth the pain!!!”

 

So how do you answer that? Are there studies that show that people with straight teeth get better jobs? Make more money? Get into better colleges? Excel in ballet? Do people with straight teeth date more? Have more friends? Do they marry better? Do they get teased less?

 

Are people with straight teeth happier?

When you get botox are you happier? Is your spouse happier? Do you get noticed more? Did you get that job?

 

We all want to feel more confident sure. But where does it all end. Am I comparing apples to apples here?

 

Braces have always been acceptable. Kids have been getting their teeth straightened for decades. But how do you tell your child they look just fine they way they are when you’re spending $8000 for straight teeth and watching your child in agony? Are we sending a mixed message. Truthfully I’ve never thought about it until Eloise through her tears asked me last night why her crooked teeth weren’t just good enough. And explaining the medical reasons still fly over the head of a 10 year old who feels so invincible. And in pain.

 

And Botox for us moms – well I’m 44 and have never considered it but have many friends in their 30s who already have and I tell them “If you think you need botox now – well 44 is going to scare the shit out of you!”  And maybe I’m weird because I kind of like my wrinkles and lines and the permanent number 11 on my forehead. I’m 44 – not 24 and no amount of ‘work’ will take me back.  I look at pictures of Diane Von Furstenburg and see beauty. Natural, natural beauty. I look at Cher and don’t. I look at Courtney Cox – who is my age and is now starting to look like Cher and it’s honestly not pretty.

 

Maybe there’s no such thing as aging gracefully, but that doesn’t mean I have to apologize for doing it at all.

 

And I know in a few days Eloise’s pain will subside and she’ll show her smile again and someday she’ll be grateful for straight teeth. I know I am grateful for mine.

I get that self-confidence has a lot to do with happiness – and I can only hope that her straight teeth will be a part of that as she becomes a teen and an adult.

 

Just like I hope her gorgeously earned wrinkles will give her confidence in her 40s.

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