Six Years Of Blogging And Now A Book

My six year blogging anniversary passed quietly last week. Celebrating my six year ‘blogiversary’ is kind of like how I handled my 45th birthday – locked in the bathroom alone with a glass of red and a dark chocolate bar as I pondered what I’ve really accomplished.

 

I started my blog as a blog. It had five readers and I shared silly, daily stories of my girls and cats. It grew to something a little bit more as I shared stories of loss and hope and I found my voice in humor.

 

After six years of blogging – fame and fortune have not come my way – except for that one viral post that made me step back and be quite comfortable really without fame and fortune.

 

Actually, blogging has given me something much better than fame and fortune – it’s given me friends and the ability to be fearless.

 

And blogging has made me become a writer.

 

Six years ago – or even three years ago I would never say “I’m a writer.” Me, who went to school for business and engineering and took many math and economics classes, and took only speech and debate as my required and very painful English class.

 

I wasn’t always adverse to English classes. I was a voracious reader as a child and kept a journal since I was eight years old. During high school I filled notebooks with poems about asshole guys ,and I submitted short stories to magazine contests.

 

Until that year of AP English when my teacher sucked all the joy out of reading, appreciating good literature, and creative writing. I sat in the back of the class refusing to participate, listen or engage. I wanted every book to burned, every piece of paper to be shredded, and every English class in the world to cease immediately. That’s how much she made me hate literature and the beauty and power of words.

 

I was an A+ student and near the top of my class, and I still smile when I see that string of Ds on my report card from that year of AP English.

 

However, I still remember the one and only assignment I completed for her. The assignment was to write a personal essay about a difficult time in our lives. At first I resisted – because completing an assignment for her was like cleaning my room when my mom asked me to. I was 17 and liked to push her buttons just like any adult who told me what to do. I told her that I had nothing to write about and did not turn in my assignment. I still remember her coming over to my desk, kneeling down to be eye to eye with me, and saying “I’m giving you 24 hours to turn something in. Just try doing this – not for me – but for you. Don’t make me fail you because you’ve failed yourself.”

 

That evening I sat in my room with some nameless punk music blaring and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote about something very personal until my hand hurt and tears smeared the ink on my papers. I turned that first draft as my final paper into her that next day. The pages that were frayed, smudged, and with some margins filled in with edits – just like my life at the time. Imperfect and feeling still so incomplete.

 

Two days later she passed our essays back to us. I expected my usual ‘D’ as I did appreciate her effort to not fail me in her class, as god knows she wanted to see me again next year even less than I wanted to see her.

 

But instead there was a big red ‘A’ on the top of the page. Along with a note “Tracy, see what you can do when you write from your heart.”

 

And I find that still today – the best writing comes from my heart – and no, it won’t be with the best grammar or spelling, but it will always be me.

 

Which is why I’m thrilled to announce today that my words are in a book.

 

A little over a year ago, two amazing women came up with a writing series called “This Is Childhood.” They invited eight of us to join them to celebrate each year from age one to age 10.

 

I wrote about seven. My Esther at seven.

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Well Brain Child Magazine picked up our series of essays and has published them in a journal that launches today. This journal includes not only our essays of childhood, but also provides pages for parents to write their own thoughts as their children experience the joy (and the hard) of just being kids. It gives parents a place to write from their heart. Which is where all of our best writing comes from.

 

However, for me, being included in this book is just the frosting on the cake. The cake is made up of many layers of love from getting to know the nine other authors and moms. Over the past year they’ve become friends, mentors, and women I admire more than anything. They are brave, beautiful, and giving. I’m so grateful that blogging has given me the gift of incredibly talented ‘writerly’ friends, who don’t think my words aren’t worth publishing because I am ‘just a blogger.’

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I stand among greatness my friends…

 

So thank you Allison – whom I’ve know the longest – for your friendship, your support in this endeavor, your brilliant writing, and the daily laughs and tears we have in this strange on-line space.

 

Lindsey, whose writing makes me want to write more. Her honestly and emotional availability and wisdom and talent come through in everything she writes. I’ve loved getting to know her and her beautiful family more.

 

Galit, my Minnesota sister and a ‘co-bringer’ of Listen To Your Mother to our fair state. We’ve become close, forever friends, and her writing will always inspire me to be more. I do not have the words to express my love for her. Also, she’s made me ‘almost’ like dogs.

 

Nina, another Minnesota friend. I’ve admired Nina’s writing for years, but now we are ‘in real life’ friends and I am forever grateful for her talents, kindness, honesty, and advice.

 

Denise  – whom I met through the ‘This Is Childhood’ series, and I am overwhelmed by her writing experiences and talents, and would follow her writing to the ends of the earth if she’d let me..in a non-stalkerish way of course.

 

Aidan – another mom of three girls and a truly beautiful soul. I admit to reading her blog archives because she is a master at her craft and deserves to be published everywhere. I’m honored to have my words close to hers. Also, I want to live in Manhattan.

 

Kristen’s writing inspires me, makes me think, and makes me want to hug her daily for asking the hard questions in a beautiful way. Her heart comes through in her essays in a way I can only dream of doing.

 

Bethany makes me laugh and cry and share with every word she writes. Her talents are immense and she almost..almost..makes me want to have a house full of boys. Almost. I find myself nodding along with her essays and wishing we could take a long run together. There would be so much laughter that just writing about that run makes me want to hop on a plane and show-up on her doorstep in a sparkly running tutu.

 

Amanda. Oh Amanda. Don’t tell her but I want to be her neighbor. I have these strange dreams of living next door to her, our six girls playing in the yard, our husbands enjoying a few beers together, while I run my fingers through her hair. OMG, I mean while we discuss life and writing, everything because I think we’re meant to be friends forever, and her words have forever changed me.

 

No matter what happens with  my writing and my blog. Whether I am published again, or I take my blog down before the 7th anniversary – I will always be grateful to count these women(and many others) as friends who’ve inspired me, challenged me, laughed and cried with me, and celebrated good things like being published in a book. SERIOUSLY GUYS, WE ARE IN A BOOK!

 

Buy it.

 

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Ready For Kindergarten

My daughter’s preschool career ends in six short weeks as this fall she will enter kindergarten. Yet this morning I still carefully unzipped and slid her jacket from her arms and hung it on her hook that has a cute little peeling bunny label on it. I put her lunch in her basket that she can easily reach, and then she sat down on the bench waiting. I bent down to her so we were eye to eye and I kissed her nose – twice – as I gently removed her boots and smelled her toes and laughed as she asked if they were super stinky this morning. I placed her boots in her spot beneath the bench and then slid her shoes on her, folding the velcro over the top with an extra pat and then one more kiss to her nose before we both stood up.

 

She grabbed my hand – her right into my left – and we skipped into her classroom together. She sat down at the art table to make me a card. She makes me a card every day. Typically a rainbow and a sun with some flowers. We stand together in the center of the picture – one tall and brunette and one small and blond. And we are both smiling. I kiss her goodbye as she is just beginning the orange stripe of the rainbow and tell her to have an amazing morning. She kisses me back and hugs me tight and tells me that she loves me so much that some days it physically hurts her.

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She is nearly five and starting kindergarten soon, and yes I’m the mom who still helps her with her coat and shoes, and walks her into class each day and waits until she gets settled before I leave.

 

And I feel no guilt for babying her just a little longer. Especially knowing I am not the same mom as I was when my oldest was finishing her preschool career. Back then I did what you were suppose to do to get them ready for kindergarten – I taught her to tie her shoes, zip her coat, and the flip method for getting her coat on and over her head properly. She got dressed each morning independently, and I walked several paces behind her as we entered preschool, and watched her find her own hook, take off her jacket, change her shoes, and run into the classroom after a quick kiss and hug in the hall. After all, in a few short months I’d be putting her on a bus and she’d have to survive on her own.

 

I must get her ready.

 

This time I don’t care. And no, I don’t plan on sending this child to her kindergarten teacher as a baby lost in the woods looking for someone to wipe her butt. We’ve got that covered.

 

What I’ve found instead is that she is ready for kindergarten without me having to put so much outward effort on making her independent. While I’ve never actually shown her how to zip, she knows how. I can take her boots on and off her for weeks – but when we’re running behind and I ask her to put her boots on – she knows how.

 

I believe in independence, free-range, and my children learning how to make their own choices.

 

But I also believe that helping her with her coat and boots for a few more months until I’m not allowed to anymore is okay too. Maybe it’s more for me than for her. And if she ever asks to ‘do it herself’ I gladly step aside. But for now, it gives me time to steal more kisses and hugs and enjoy this short time we have together before she’s off to school forever.

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You may calling it ‘babying’ her, but I just call it ‘time.’ Because as every mother knows, there’s never enough time to enjoy them while they are little and draw you holding hands under a rainbow filled sky.

 

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There’s Nothing Like A Wedding

He held my hand a little tighter on Saturday, and maybe found his hand rubbing my ..ahem..ass a little more than was appropriate to do in a church. Maybe he also stole a few kisses. Lightly. Quickly. I found myself looking down in reflection as I thought about marriage.

 

Weddings do strange things to people. Well maybe normal things. Needed things.  wedding-party

And after 16 years together and 12 years of marriage we know all too well that the wedding does not make a marriage. The next 50 years we don’t get to wear silk dresses from Paris(I loved my dress), or toast champagne with friends, and head to a hotel room knowing that we could just sleep naked all day without fear of the kids yelling out at 2am “Mom, I need some water!” “Dad I have to go potty!” “I’m scared of the dark!”

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Then and Now

Marriage is not very often a celebration of romance, but a daily grind of laundry, dinner and homework.

 

Which is why we need to go to more weddings. We are ‘at an age’ when weddings are scarce in our circles. We are old enough that either everyone is already married, or now getting married the second time alone on a beach somewhere. And our children(thank god) are too young to marry. I see in 10-15 years our invitations to weddings might trickle into our mailbox again as we become the older generation dancing to the YMCA at receptions in 2030 and having trouble making it to midnight.

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So it was nice to celebrate a wedding with family last weekend. I love weddings because everyone shares their love stories – their wedding stories – their being a couple before kids stories. Jed loves to tell people that we probably aren’t really married after a quick elopement without witnesses to Scotland and leaving with a certificate that doesn’t look quite legal. But it was the perfect wedding for us. Small, an adventure, away, simple, with an excuse to visit another country. Yet Jed still teased me during this weekend’s wedding mass that he talked to the Priest about making us legal that day. He said that to get under my skin knowing that for us a Priest doesn’t get that say. We do. And our three daughters do.

 

Jed and I are very different people, yet so much the same. We found that out again this weekend as we stuck together like glue in the busy and chaos of family and friends, and felt our sameness after 12 years so much more than our differences. The sameness that we found again a few months ago when we remembered what we were doing with our love affair and checked our egos at the door.

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Love is hard. And makes a wedding seem so simple.

 

I hope we have more weddings soon. More opportunities for Jed to steal kisses and rub me inappropriately in a pew. But I guess we don’t need a wedding to do that. We just need more simple reminders of love.

 

And fewer 2am wake-up calls.

 

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How To Be A Flower Girl In 10 Easy Steps

Our daughters were completely over the moon excited to be included in their cousin’s wedding this past weekend. Being a flower girl is a very special honor and I know my girls will remember that day for the rest of their lives.

 

I was a flower girl in my aunt’s wedding. I had a yellow dress – which at three years old – wasn’t awesome – because everything had to be PINK for me at the time. PINK! But I remember standing in front of the church with my other aunts and feeling how special it was to be included, to be in a fancy dress just like the ladies, and to witness the wedding from the best seats in the house. And some 41 years later I still get to see my aunt and uncle as adorable together as they were when they were really still just kids themselves.

 

And now I like yellow.

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Is your daughter going to be a flower girl soon? Wondering about all the details that need to be done before and during the big day? You’re in luck – here is How To Be A Flower Girl in Ten Easy Steps…

 

1. Buy dress. Not just any dress – but THE dress. This shopping experience will be something simpler than looking for your own wedding dress – but slightly harder than shopping for your prom dress. It will hopefully also be cheaper than both. Key things you need to shop for the dresses – parameters from bride, time, patient kids, a sense of humor, and a budget. Luckily, my girls love trying on dresses and we had a ball going to several bridal shops to try them all on. Also, the bride was easy and wanted something very traditional and simple – and the dress was found quickly. Furthermore, going to bridal stores is fun for the girls as we got to see so many excited brides as they found their own dresses. Honestly, we are ready to dress shop again. Bring on PROM in 2019!

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2. The dress is just the start – now go shop for shoes and tights that work with the dress and match the wedding party. Remember to find shoes that match, that work with the bridal party, and that are COMFORTABLE and FIT. No one wants to see a Flower Girl literally go down while going down the aisle. Since we had flower girls that lived in different parts of the country – I suggest using a retailer that is nationwide to make this job easier. Zappos, Amazon, Macy’s and Nordstrom are great choices. We found our shoes and tights at Nordstrom. We also bought other more comfortable shoes for dancing!

 

3. Be prepared to WAIT. Once the girls are dressed – you will still need to wait for the bride, for pictures, for logistics, and for transportation. However, you cannot just throw Doritos at them and put them in front of the TV and let them roll around on the floor. Also, you don’t want them running around in halls or streets because tripping and bloody boo-boos are not so awesome just before the wedding and pictures. So prepare your kids for waiting and arm them with things to do that are clean, fun and relatively wrinkle-proof. We had some coloring tablets(NO MARKERS), brought books, watched movies, and of course chatted and played some games. Try to avoid the boredom. There will be boredom.

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4. Don’t send them into battle hungry! Feed them before even if it seems weird to have a sandwich at 10am. Odds are if they have to be ready and dressed by 11am -another meal is not coming their way until after the ceremony and pictures – so in like FOREVER. And bring ‘clean’ snacks like crackers(non-cheesy), fruit snacks, and some nuts. I may have also fed them M&Ms one by one like they were little baby birds. Also – water only because nobody wants a fruit punch spill down the front of a dress right before it’s time to walk down the aisle.

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5. Remind them that even though they are the CUTEST thing to ever walk the Earth – and sure quite possibly your four year old will steal the show – this day is still ALL ABOUT THE BRIDE. You will listen to the bride, you will not make this about you, you will let it be about the bride, you will love the bride, one day YOU will be the bride, you are there in service on the bride, you will not upstage the bride, etc all about the bride. And just watch their sweet faces as the bride enters the room in her dress and veil.

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6. Plan for what to do at the church. Will it be a short ceremony and the Flower Girls will stand the whole, short time? Will they sit in the front row? Will the service be long? Make sure they know what the expectations are and prepare.

 

7. Prepare to be royalty – from Limo rides, to fancy dresses, and EVERYONE noticing YOU, and pictures like we are the paparazzi, and fancy drinks FINALLY at the end – ENJOY it. It’s like being a fairy princess for a day and maybe you won’t want to ever take that dress off!

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8. Pictures! There will be PICTURES. So many pictures – from getting dressed, to seeing the bride, and the ceremony, and formal bridal party pictures, dancing pictures, reception pictures, staged pictures and casual moments captured. Prepare to be in hundreds of pictures. Enjoy it. Smile. I’ll feed you more M&Ms if you remember to smile and be an easy participant.

 

9. Be ready to PARTY! Maybe take a nap if possible(this goes for moms too), because the party will go late. Kick off your dressy shoes and DANCE ALL NIGHT. This is the part of the day you will remember. That day you got to down 10 Shirley Temples and dance for hours because everyone wants to dance with you. Conga lines and the Electric Slide will become part of your make-up during this special night. And just try to ignore all of the adults who’ve drank a wee bit of champagne and get a little too crazy during Shout!

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10. Be thankful and be grateful. Being asked to be a Flower Girl is truly an honor and amazing gift. Save lots of kisses, hugs and thank yous for the couple that asked you to be part of their special day. They love you so much. Know that. Remember that. Remember this day. The day you were a princess. Forever.

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Have you ever been a Flower Girl?

 

Our Flower Girl ‘What They Wore’ information – Flower Girl Dress in Ivory from US Angels, Kenneth Cole Shoes from Nordstrom, Tights from Nordstrom, sashes were custom made.

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Zombie Mommy

“Mommy, I don’t like when you leave me.”

 

I don’t always like leaving you either. But sometimes I have to…and I always come back.

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“But if you were dead you wouldn’t come back.”

 

True, but I’m not dying anytime soon – so just for now, know that I’m coming back.

 

“But you will die someday and then you won’t come back and I won’t know you aren’t coming back.”

 

But by then you’ll be older and maybe a mommy too, so you won’t need me as much. So it will be okay. And that’s a long time from now.

 

“I’ll still need you when I’m a mommy.”

 

Maybe for some stuff. But not everything. You’ll have your own house and kids and life and even your own cats. And I’ll be very old when I die.

 

“Well even if you die when I’m a mommy and you’re very very old. I will still wish you were coming back.”

 

Me too.

 

“Unless you were a zombie. That would be super creepy. Don’t come back as a zombie mommy.”

 

I feel like I can promise you that I won’t come back as a zombie mommy and creep you out.

 

“Because if you did come back as a zombie mommy, I don’t think I could let you in my house.”

 

I understand and will respect your wishes if I did show up at your door as a zombie mommy. I wouldn’t let me in either.

 

“Okay, so don’t feel bad.”

 

I’ll be dead. I don’t think I’ll feel bad. I’m going to try not to be a zombie mommy ever.

 

“Promise.”

 

Promise. Now I have to get going to my thing.

 

“Okay, I will miss you, but please come back just as a regular mommy.”

 

Right, I’ll come back as regular mommy. Not dead. Not a zombie. And I’ll tuck you into bed. It won’t be creepy.

 

“This is why I love you so much. Because you’re not a zombie mommy.”

 

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About That Blogging Every Day

In case you missed it. I did not blog this weekend. And here after I promised you that I would blog each and every day in 2014.

 

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But here’s the thing. Esther turned nine on Friday and the thought of burying her birthday, her face, her joyful jumps and a celebration of her just seemed so wrong.

 

And while we did fun things and had a lovely weekend – there was nothing I wanted to write or post or capture that trumped our celebration of Esther.

 

How could I bury this on my little blog? And yes friends in Florida, this is the road in front of our home from November til March. Pavement is an urban legend.

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So I did not write this weekend. I wanted Esther front and center for as long as possible. It seemed like the right thing to do.

 

I’ve enjoyed blogging every day for the past two months. And yes, I made it for exactly two months. It’s given me the motivation to really write every day, to get my camera out more, and to dig deeper for stories for share. The exercise of blogging every day has been amazing.

 

But it’s also hurt me. Because of the burying of posts. Some posts, some writing, some photos – but most importantly – some people deserve a heck of a lot more than 24 hours.

 

So as I sat down to write on Saturday, all I did instead was stare at Esther’s sweet and joyful face at the top of the page, and I stopped typing and just took her in. And let her stay there. She needed a longer celebration and nothing I would write could outweigh her coming into our lives nine years ago. A three week early surprise of laboring all night, a placental abruption, an emergency ride to the hospital, to a c-section before I could barely get undressed, to a chubby and healthy baby girl in my arms.

 

And with Esther, and then Astrid’s miraculous arrival almost five years later making us the family that we are… well keeping my computer closed and just enjoying the five of us in our house during this(hopefully) very very cold last weekend of below zero temperature seemed like the right thing to do.

 

Blogging every day has given me the discipline to write more and realize that I do have stories worth telling. But living every day has given me the grace to know when it’s better to just let our stories happen while keeping my hands busy wrapped around my children instead of typing on a page.

 

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Nine

I’ve never been this close to a middle child before, but now that I have one, well there’s a lot of truth to the myths you hear. And my empathy for Jan Brady has grown by leaps and bounds the last few years.

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Our middle child is our ultimate peace maker and friend to all. She cherishes her sisters’ love and appreciation and gives to each of them endlessly. She lets Eloise control the wheres, whys, whats, and hows – what the plans are, where they are going, the games they play, and when they do it – almost always on Eloise’s time. And she lets Astrid take most of the snuggles, the long bedtime routines, controlling the shows for the baby cartoons, the space on mom’s lap, a big slice of her attention for the last four years.

 

And this middle has done it with grace and acceptance and a smile for most of her life.

 

But nine is changing things. She’s using a word I’ve never heard from her. NO – to her sisters and to us. She’s giving herself permission to voice an opinion when she’s never expressed one before.

 

Typing that sounds awful.  I hope it hasn’t been. She has just always ‘gone with the flow’ and has seemingly done it with a laugh and a skip in her step. Now I wonder if that was okay or if she’s been bottling up her angst for years.

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Not that she seems angry now. She just seems strong and is using her voice.

 

And saying no more often. As well as voicing what she wants to do and what’s important to her.

 

When I think about it, even many of her toys and interests were all things that Eloise liked, and I think she felt like she was suppose to like and do the same things.

 

But today, Esther is nine and she wants you to know…

 

She doesn’t like riding horses. Sure, her sister is obsessed, but she’s not interested.

She loves all animals and honestly(and don’t tell her sisters), our cat prefers her over anyone.

She hates the Rainbow Loom – and all jewelry making – and all small motor type toys. Her hands can’t do the things that her sister’s can – and instead of ending up just getting frustrated, she is just saying “I’m not interested in that.”

She loves books about fantasy and sci-fi and wishes her sister would stop suggesting realistic fiction to her.

She doesn’t like riding a bike. So stop asking her to learn.

She’s an amazing tap dancer and she doesn’t care that you like jazz better. Tap is cool.

She likes scary movies. She wishes her sister would just go to bed earlier so we could watch more. Eloise hates scary movies.

She likes to ski fast. She hates to turn. She likes to just go straight down as fast as humanly possible.

She doesn’t care if her hair is messed up, her clothes don’t match or if her shoes work with her outfit.

She’s a good friend and loyal to the core.

She likes fruit and sushi and all vegetables and steak. She wonders why Eloise and I don’t like meat.

She doesn’t like math even though she’s good at it.

She’s very affectionate and still tries to fit on my lap. You can see the sadness in her face when she doesn’t.

She randomly comes up to me and touches me, hugs me, and tells me that she loves me. She doesn’t care who hears.

She doesn’t care about technology. Has never used a laptop and has never asked to, and is the last person you’ll find using the iPad.

She’s the first in the kitchen to ask if I need help making dinner or setting the table. And the first to volunteer to fold laundry.

She likes to go to bed early and stay in bed late into the morning. Like wants to sleep in like a teenager. The girl likes to sleep.

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She never asks for anything.

But now I need to do a better job of asking her what she wants to do, what she wants, and what she likes.

I don’t want her to live a life of just going with the flow, as the peace maker, as the middle.

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Because our Esther is such a pure and special person that needs to be heard.

 

And at nine she’s finding her voice. My job is to help her use it and to guide her how to make it louder.

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Because nine is just the beginning.

 

Happy Birthday Sweet Esther-Boo. I love you so much it hurts.

 

 

 

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She Loves Me Anyway

I make a lot of mistakes as a mother. While our oldest daughter will always officially be our guinea pig, our trials and errors do not belong exclusively to her and to talk about ‘from the couch’ one day. Her sisters will join her there.

 

I would not call myself a ‘mean’ mother, but I am a ‘firm’ mother. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t yelled. Because I have.

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I’ve also apologized more times than I can count because I am not above mistakes and I’d prefer a relationship of mutual respect with my kids.I don’t want to be their boss. I am here to be their guide.

 

I forget things. I’ve forgotten my kids at school and activities. I forgot Astrid once as she slept in her car seat that I put down on the sidewalk while I loaded the car. But thankfully had just pulled away from the curb when I realized my grave mistake.

 

I’ve been taking an ‘in the car’ body count since that day.

 

I’ve forgotten field trips and important papers to be sent back to school. I’ve forgotten birthday parties and important parts of costumes or projects that I was suppose to buy for them.

 

I’ve fed them junk food and drive-thru and don’t buy organic fruit.

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I’m inflexible and probably not as warm as they’d like sometimes.

 

I work from home, thus the line between “Is mommy working” vs “Is mommy not working” is blurred and most of the time I feel like I’m failing at both.

 

Mornings are hectic no matter how early we rise or how organized we seem and I’m always short with them as we hustle out the door. As the bus pulls away I always think that if this is the last time we see each other – what will they remember about me.

 

I hate playing games(except cards), don’t understand make-believe, I’m a horrible artist, don’t craft, don’t allow glitter, and I don’t love play-dates…here.

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I’m the type of mom that gives her kids plenty of opportunities for independence and learning. You won’t find me trying to entertain them on the weekends. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m too detached.

 

I have faults too long to list – just like any human and mother.

 

And when I feel overwhelmed and that I’m doing it all wrong.

 

I need to remember one thing.

 

Kids are kids.

 

And their simple needs are love and security.

 

And if I search though the life of each day of chaos and busy and schedules and short tempers and toys everywhere  – I see love and security everywhere for them.

 

I don’t need to play Monopoly or dollies to give them that.

 

And even if we’ve had a bad morning, I am still greeted each day with a picture from Astrid.

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A picture of us(without clothes…with our belly buttons showing…ahem). But us. Together.

 

That’s what Astrid sees. That’s what she knows and loves. And she draws me a picture of us every day. I have 240 of these so far. And if you think I’m making a book. Well you are correct.

 

“Mommy, you’re my best friend and you’re the best mommy ever.”

 

And any mommy guilt I have disappears.

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Join Amanda of Dude Mom and 11 others as we celebrate being Happy Mamas each month. Join us and let’s start a movement together.


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When I Grow Up..

Many of Astrid’s classmates said that they want to be doctors or lawyers or teachers or firefighters.

 

Some even writers, dancers, singers, or artists.

 

When I was four, I wanted to work at Dairy Queen.

 

Turns out Astrid’s career aspirations are even bigger than mine were.

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All I can say is “Yay to unlimited chips, guacamole, and margaritas! Mommy doesn’t really need you to buy her a retirement home.”

 

What did you want to grow-up to ‘be’ when you were four?

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A Little More Conversation

My Valentine’s Day was spent with my constant companion.

TALK-TO-YOUR-KIDS

She’s pretty sweet and honestly a wonderful date. I told her she could pick anywhere to go for a special treat, and she picked Starbucks. She wanted a ‘coffee’ and a cake pop and a chocolate croissant for later. And she didn’t want to take anything to go, no she insisted that we sat and had our treat.

 

We sat on the tall stools that line the window. She wanted to watch the people go by and honestly I think she just likes being up high.

 

She ate her pink cake pop quickly, wiped her mouth, swept the crumbs on the table onto a napkin and then said “So.”

 

So? I replied.

 

“Let’s have some conversation. What do you want to talk about, Mama?”

 

Conversation? That sounds lovely. I want to talk about what we should see when we visit Washington DC next month. Will we see the pandas?

 

So we talked about Washington DC and how after the pandas she wants to go to the White House but hopes she doesn’t meet Barack Obama because he’s a guy – and she’d rather meet a woman. And asked how instead we could meet Michelle. After the pandas of course. And after we had exercised as much conversation about DC as we could, I asked her what she now wanted to talk about.

 

“Triangles.” She said. Then she turned around on her stool and found all of the triangles in the coffee shop. Then rectangles. Then squares. Then circles. And your cup is not a circle -even though I tried to pass it off as one. “No Mama, that’s a cylinder. Let me show you the difference so you don’t get it wrong next time.”

 

We had conversation for about an hour. No phones, no internet, no TV, no laundry, no chores, no work, no other people. Just two people having a conversation.

 

And I’d forgotten how beautiful it is to just sit in a coffee shop with a friend and immerse myself into the spoken words of another person. How great things happen at coffee shops and astounding creativity. How I can spend hours and days and weeks in my home with this amazing little curious person but still not pause long enough to really talk to her.

 

Pause long enough to find out there are 47 triangles to be found in our neighborhood Starbucks.

 

I think we need more coffee dates.

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How You Know It’s True Love

In Spanish class they were given the materials and instructions to make one Valentine. What they did from there was up to them. Children came out of the room immediately handing cards to their moms or dads, sisters and brothers. But Esther handed us nothing and instead simply said “I have a special card that I made today.”

 

I assumed she just wanted to present her masterpiece to us upon our return home.

 

Esther walked in the door, removed her snowy boots and dropped her backpack to the floor. She took off her mittens, hat and coat and knelt down to unzip her backpack. She reached in and carefully removed a card and skipped into the living room calling for Truffle.

cat-love

But she didn’t need to call for Truffle as he was already bounding down the steps as he does each day at about 4pm when his sisters return from school.

 

Typically Esther reaches down for him, picks him up and over her shoulder, where he nuzzles her face and purrs for several minutes.

 

But yesterday instead she got down on the ground and read him the Valentine’s Day card that she made only for him. Her favorite Valentine.

cat-valentine

And as she finished I heard her say “No one will ever love me the way that you do, Truffle-man. You are the best kind of love of all.”

 

And if you’ve ever loved a pet – well I think you know exactly what she means. Unconditionally.

******

Astrid came home yesterday when a bag full of Valentines from her preschool party. There were tattoos, chocolates, cards, and stickers. One of the sets of stickers had several Cupids on it.

 

“What’s that guy, Mama?” She asked, not familiar with the baby cherub archer man.

 

Oh, that’s Cupid. Cupid helps people fall in love.

 

Astrid climbed up on my lap, grabbed my face in her hands, and looked right into my eyes and said “We didn’t need a Cupid to make us fall in love. We just did that right from the beginning.”

*****

photo-valentines

Eloise came over this morning and stood very close to me. Then she took her hand out to measure where the top of her head now hit on my face.

 

Right above my nose.

 

I thought you were coming over for a Valentine’s Day hug. I said.

 

“Ha!” Eloise responded. “In a few months I’ll be taller than you. I just wanted to remind you of that fact.”

*****

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May you find and have all the kinds of love that ring true.

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My Children Are My ‘Want To..’ Hands Free Mama – A Review

I snuggled up to her in bed. She spooned into me as I wrapped my arms around her and took in the freshly bathed sent of her hair. Her fleece pajamas felt warm to my touch and she relaxed into me like the perfect puzzle piece against my stomach, neck and chest.

 

“Will you tell me a scary story, Mama.” She asked.

 

A scary one before bed? Really, is that what you want?

 

“The scarier the better!” She said.

 

In her dimly lit bedroom I could still see the wonder in her eyes and smile on her lips as I started the scary bedtime story for her.

 

I’m typically a “Let’s do this bath/books/bed thing quickly!!” kind of mom as the end of the long day cannot come soon enough. From an early wake-up to breakfast to bus to work to dance to homework to dinner to bed – the days of parenting can be long and tiresome. And by 7pm I’m reaching for the quiet and for the alone.

 

And I cringe to admit that maybe I’ve blown off her story requests with an “I’ll tell you extra stories tomorrow.” or “Let me think of something even better to tell you in the morning.” and sadly “It’s bedtime sweetie, no time for stories tonight.” More times than not…

 

But I made time this week. More time than usual as I realized how fleeting this ‘telling stories’ part of childhood is. How my 11 and 9 year olds read by themselves in their rooms with their lights. Their books are filled with complicated words and few pictures, and many of their stories I’ve never shared. How soon this little one in the fleece pajamas with reindeer on her feet, and baby fine freshly washed hair won’t ask to hear my stories anymore.

 

So I stayed.

 

And told a story of sisters getting lost in the woods and the calls of wolves scaring them from the forest and how they had to run to stay safe together. As I made ‘real’ wolf howls and panicked voices, her grip tightened on my arms that kept hold around her.

 

Her grip relaxed at the end, when of course the sisters made it home to their mom and hot cocoa after a stern “That’s why I tell you to never wander in the wood alone at night!” Then she turned to face me and I kissed her nose as she wrapped her still so very small arms around my neck and said “I’m glad you were there to protect me. Now I can sleep better.”

 

Soon I could hear her heavier and steady breathing humming on the monitor downstairs, and each of those breaths slowly entered my mothering heart with calm.

*****

playa-guiones-sunset

This moment took five minutes. Yet it’s a short moment with a long impact that my sweet girl will always hold in her heart. Those days that mommy stayed and held me as she told me stories.

 

I could’ve instead spent five more minutes on Facebook or answering work emails or writing another blog post. (All of which, I really still do have time to do).

 

But I’m not going to let those five minutes of joy that I can and will spend with my children be the “I have tos” of my days…oh no those are the “I want to moments…”‘ that I need more of. MY “I have tos..” are my work demands and the emails. And sure – I have to mother – but not because I have to. Because I want to. And choose to be present for my children every single day.

*****

I just finished reading Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford.

Hands-Free-Mama-Book-Review

Distracted parenting. Can you relate? And this isn’t to shame anyone(ME!) on the phone at the playground or answering emails instead of playing Monopoly(oh help me god). But it’s being present when you can be present. Rachel’s words, commitment and journey of grasping what really matters has inspired me. Her new book is full of ways to make your parenting life(and mixed with your professional life) meaningful and fulfilling by learning to grasp and appreciate the moments that really matter. Her book gives tips on unplugging and making real connections.

 

One of my favorite lines from Rachel’s Hands-Free Pledge is…

 

” I am letting go of distractions, disconnections, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters.”

 

Every chapter hit me in soft spots and hard as I mirrored my parenting in hers. And I had many a “Me TOO!” moment as I recognize how busy we’ve all become. Her chapters are full or beautiful stories and insightful tips about Awareness, Presentness, Simplification, and even Forgiveness.

Tips and lessons that I want to model for my own children as they start to enter the social media space.

Her book is a beautiful and gentle reminder not to let our lives, our only one, pass us by.

 

I have so much gratitude to Rachel for sharing her words with us. And I would love for you to check out her book. It will make you think, cry, and maybe make a few tiny changes, that will make all the difference in your days. And your world.

 

Like my world – which includes bedtime snuggles and stories with a reindeer-footed preschooler who won’t want to hear mommy’s stories for much longer.

 

So join Rachel and go hands-free. Discover what happens when you choose to open your heart—and your hands—to the possibilities of each blessed moment.

 

Her books is available here…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christianbook | iBooks (Apple) | IndieBound

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What Do You Learn In Preschool

I vaguely remember preschool. I remember it was in a church basement; Lutheran, even though we were Catholic. And my teacher wore her hair high up on her head in curls that were neatly pinned like flowers. She also wore a tan, ribbed turtleneck top, a huge smile, and sensible shoes most days. I remember playing with various toys, reading books, signing songs, and learning the importance of sitting quietly on a carpet as we all faced the teacher. My teacher, in 1972, wore a miniskirt as she sat on a chair facing us. We could spy her undies every day. We loved her. And her undies and how they made us giggle.

 

Preschool was a place to go and socialize with other kids, a place where you learned a little body control and how to listen to a teacher, and a foundation for getting you ready for your adventure to bigger and better learning.

 

Preschool should be magical. It should be a place where unicorns graze in rainbow colored fields under a jelly bean sky. Preschool teachers I believe are hatched from pastel colored eggs that have been dipped in fairy dust before being carried down to earth by white swans wearing tutus.

 

This is how I want my daughters to feel when they go off to preschool. I want them to feel like they are wrapped up in magic at every turn.

 

And we’ve found that spot with our preschool.

 

Don’t laugh at me, but I have tears running down my face a I type this. And when Astrid’s teacher hugged me hello this morning I cried then too. Just feeling her warmth and by knowing how safe and happy Astrid is there. Each day her teacher hugs or touches me and tells me words that are reaffirming. “We love Astrid so much. She’s a delight. She makes my heart happy. Her smile lights up a room. She’s a lovely friend. I don’t want her to ever go to kindergarten…”

 

And I cry again. I’ve warned them that I plan to just come and sit in the classroom next year for a few hours even though Astrid will not be there. Because I need more unicorns and fairy dust in my life. Everyone should have a place that makes you feel this good.

 

Astrid’s school focuses a lot on music and art. Each ‘lesson’ or monthly plan is about a band or artist. They’ve studied The Beatles, Bob Marley, Michael Franti, Taj Mahal, Claude Monet and more. They learn all of the songs or paintings, have dance parties, and explore the places and cultures where the artists are from. This is her preschool curriculum, and I melt over it each day I enter that happy place to drop her off. And I linger longer there than I have at any other school.

 

We’ve spent months singing along with Astrid as she continues to appreciate the arts at home – and teach us what she has learned. And I love it so hard that no one is pushing phonics or math or early reading books on this child. This child with a song in her heart.

 

Her favorite song from the year is Cakewalk Into Town by Taj Mahal… and she sang a few versus for us. And I think if we all listen and watch this just a few more times, well no one will get the blues ever again.

 

Guaranteed unicorns, rainbows, swans and jelly beans if you watch this….

What do you love about your child’s preschool?

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I Did This – I’m With The #HappyMamas

The quiet is almost deafening upstairs. Occasionally I hear soft stocking feet running down the hall, a giggle, or a door quietly shutting. But for nearly three hours it’s been silent.

 

If you are a mother of three, this could cause concern. The long quiet. Concern enough to go check on your children – are they free of blood, teeth intact, room not on fire, alive. But I never went up there. With three kids I expect at least one will be able to scream down for help in case the other two are dealing with blood or fire or broken teeth.

 

It’s our fifth day off school over a span of just two weeks. We’ve spent a lot of time together. A lot of time inside our home together. A lot of time not being able to safely play outside. A lot of time dragging out every toy, book, game, crayon, and snack we own.

 

And besides an hour in the morning as the zombies stare at the TV while they shovel in frozen waffles, or the hour at night when we catch-up on Dance Moms together or watch reruns of Sam And Cat – the TV is off, the iPad isn’t touched, and my computer is my computer.

 

The girls are brushing doll hair, putting on fashion shows, making pictures, having pretend picnics, and going through drawers of stuffed animals that haven’t been unearthed in years. Together.

happy-mama

And frankly some of the time I haven’t even known what they were doing because they were playing. Without me near. For hours. By themselves. Like children should do. Maybe they sat and listened to music and took turns being the lead in a band, or maybe they put on puppet shows, or maybe they told each other jokes. What they did is their own thing. That they created for themselves. In their rooms. And they only came down for dinner when I called them to set the table. And they came down together and laughing. No blood.

 

I finished my work. It’s one of my busiest weeks at work, and having them home from school weighed heavy on my shoulders and mind as I saw the temperatures plummet. But I had nothing to worry about, because kids have the ability to make their own fun. And play with each other.

 

I want to whisper this secret to my friends with all little ones at home – that things will get quiet for them one day. That one day their kids will just go play without them building that Lego tower with them(not that I don’t love to do that once in awhile), but when they do need a three hour block to get some work done – their kids can manage that for them..and just go play. Like we once did as kids.

 

Yet my kids are still all here in our house. We’re still sharing space together. Even though they aren’t tapping on my knee saying “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…”

 

And even though my kids are a floor away and not asking me for anything – I am still mothering. In fact  – I did that….I mothered enough so my kids know they can make their own fun and snacks and pick up their toys. I did that. I taught them boundaries and gave them a space to play. I let them know that sometimes mom needs to work and needs quiet, and to respect my time just like I respect a crazy amount of time with them. I taught them to be self-sufficient and to be happy even playing alone or with a sister for more than 10 minutes. I did this.

 

Watching your kids move away from you because they know how and can, is still mothering. Being a good mother did this. Being a good mother doesn’t have to be defined by how many games you played with them or how many plays you acted out. Being a good mother also means that they can go off for hours to create their own plays, but being there when they’re ready to perform.

*****

Galit and I were chatting and having a glass of wine together. We sat close and laughed about many things as we talked…we really talked, and finished sentences. We were out together bowling with our families…TEN PEOPLE..and bowling in a LOUD bar. And yet we sat and drank wine and heard each other. We talked about writing and work and sure, kids.

friends

And those SIX kids were just feet away from us, but they were bowling and talking and laughing and playing all by themselves. They never came to talk to us or ask for anything. They managed their own food and drinks. They took their turns and kept their own scores and just did what kids do.

 

We’ve done it. We’ve reached this sweet spot in mothering. Where the kids are old enough to do so much(nearly everything) on their own, and you can do things you enjoy parallel to them(like talking with a dear friend) – because they are still there. There – feet or a floor from you – but still with you. This sweet age when they can do for themselves yet they are still with you and not away with friends.

 

Dear friends – this is such a sweet time right now. I cherish this moment of motherhood before it flees too. Like all of the moments mothering do. Mothering has its beautiful and hard moments – the moments you miss and the one you don’t once they are gone – but I’m holding this now of motherhood tight.

 

This moment where my kids are here. But just not right here all of the time.

****

This was written as a Happy Mama Moment. A group of 12 moms have formed a Happy Mother Movement for 2014. Each month you can join us and link up with your Happy Mama Moment, inspired by Dude Mom.

happy mama movement logo

 

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117th Avenue Northeast

I learned to dance The Hustle in that house. There was a much older neighbor girl(6th grade) who knew all the cool steps. I was only in kindergarten and wanted bell-bottom jeans just like hers, and I grew my hair out in her to match her Marcia Brady style.

 

That house is where we would listen to Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, The Beatles, or even a little Charlie Rich when we would all pitch-in to clean on Saturdays. I remember marching through the living room(while holding a broom) as I cleaned to Yellow Submarine.

our-houseOur(only one) bathroom was pink, our kitchen was orange and avocado green, and our living room had raised blue velvet wallpaper and matching blue shag wall to wall carpeting.

 

That house had only two bedrooms, so I shared with my brother – our twin beds parallel on opposite walls – and we would talk late(8pm) into the evenings. Our discussions mainly centered around the fact that our mom made us go to bed, but it was still light out, and our friends could be heard playing right outside our window.

 

At that house we had a sandbox in the backyard. We would spend days digging to China(not possible) and when we gave up we would run from yard to yard just playing with whomever else(everyone) was outside.

 

The summer that I was five, I convinced my mom that I should be able to run around the neighborhood without my shirt because my brother and all of his friends did. No one ever thought the girl with the Marcia Brady hair, but running around without a shirt seemed odd. I preferred jean cut-offs and bare feet to a dress and mary janes any day during those years we lived in that house.

 

I’d follow my big brother everywhere when we lived in that house. And one day that summer of being five, that ‘bad’ kid that no mom liked, but we just could not stop hanging around, taught us all the word “fuck” as we all sat on top of the monkey bars together. The word felt strange yet nice on my tongue as I said it the first time.

 

I think I went right back to that house and told my mom about it.

 

We got our first dog when we lived in that house. But Benji peed on visitors, and laundry, and furniture. And when Benji peed on mom, we had to return him to the shelter. We didn’t have anymore pets in that house.

 

We moved into that house as a family of four…and left as such..but with a different dad.

 

I don’t remember a lot about the four years we lived in that house – just the pink bathroom, green refrigerator, the sandbox, learning a favorite word, having my brother near each night to talk to, and my freedom from shirt-wearing status.

 

But I bet my mom remembers a lot more about that house. How a marriage broke-up. How she went back to school and got a good job to support us as a single parent. How she got remarried. The memories that house must hold for her.

 

And it all makes sense now how Helen Reddy became our Saturday cleaning theme since I still know all the words to You And Me Against The World, I Am Woman Hear Me Roar, and Delta Dawn.

 

That house will always be the house that taught me the importance of a good personal theme song because it buries itself into your heart to create a lifetime of memories. Kind of like a house can. When everything changes.

*****

Written for #WhereILivedWednesday with Anns Rants.

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The Guinea Pig

I spent the morning with Esther and Eloise, who had the day off from school, while their little sister did have school. We all kept looking for her behind and beside us as we all grabbed for a hand that wasn’t there.

 

At one point Esther was convinced that we left Astrid at the bakery. And for the moment after that I was convinced we left her somewhere too. But we have Eloise to keep us in check. She’s the hand for Astrid when mine are full, the one to bathe her when I have to work, and the one to remind me what time school ends or dance starts.

tween-girls

And Eloise does all of this without me asking. Esther easily picks up that slack if Eloise is busy with friends or dance.

 

The rythym of the three always keeps me calm as a mother – because I have help in so many other hands and hearts without question.

 

And maybe it helps that Astrid is five and seven years younger than her sisters – because having a “baby sister” is easier to handle than just a typical “little sister.”

 

As Eloise says, “Astrid leads a charmed life.” But then Eloise doesn’t do anything to make it a less charmed life – in fact I think she makes sure of the charm.

 

So this morning I took the big girls out for pain au chocolat and cafe au lait(chocolat chaud for them..but Eloise does sip off of my coffee…don’t tell Jed). We sipped and ate and talked about school and friends and how we will visit Paris someday soon. We made plans for their school Valentines and made a grocery list. Then Eloise looked at her watch and told us to hurry and finish so we wouldn’t be late picking up Astrid.

 

“I love Astrid’s school.” She said as we gathered our coats and hats. “I wish I went to preschool there. She’s so lucky.”

 

I know, hon..it is a great school. But your preschool was pretty great too. I didn’t know where to send you – you were my first, and I think we did okay.

 

“You did – and I liked my school. I’m always your guinea pig though.” She looked at me as she said this and I could tell by the light in her eyes that she was slightly teasing me. “Being the oldest means you can try things on me to see if they are good or bad and then make better decisions for Esther and Astrid. And I’m okay with that as it’s fun to be the first and to try things. And I will always tell you if something sucks…you know, so my sisters get something better.”

 

So you don’t mind being our guinea pig, is that what you are saying…because if you realize this is truly a fact(it is) and you own it and kind of like it, well there are many more new experiences we can try. Just wait for high school!

 

“Sure Mom, I can handle it. I just hope my sisters know what I’ve done for them.” Eloise kind of laughed as she said this.

 

I don’t know any two sisters who look up to their big sister more. Ever. They will always look for your guidance and your hand, because you’ve always given it so freely to them.

 

“Soooo, maybe now that I know I’m a guinea pig…I can actually have one as a pet?”

 

Don’t push your luck, sister.

 

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Turn, Turn, Turn…

Our lives have changed a lot this year. No one tells you about this dance when you become a parent. They will tell you that things will get better. Or things will get easier. Or things will finally click and you’ll find a rhythm together. Sometimes you feel this will never happen and you will step on toes for the next 18 years.

 

But they don’t tell you that things will just change. And flow. And move. And it’s okay to change partners(spend time with the child who needs you most) when a song ends.

parenting-dance

My kids have always been fairly independent and responsible, but we’ve seen the biggest jump this year, and the biggest shift in this childhood dance.

 

A year where Astrid is in preschool more and has started her own activities. Her movements increase and we dance quickly together. This is tiring sometimes for an older mom because my 80s moves are no longer in fashion and sometimes I have to sit out a few dances to catch my breath.

 

A year where Esther is independently doing more complicated homework, dancing more on her own, and we will find her in a corner reading quietly for longer periods of time. Our most bubbly child seeks more quiet time and her dance has slowed as she reaches a more intellectual point in childhood.

parenting-changes

A year where I now drop Eloise everywhere. There’s that time when you go in and wait during lessons and classes. And then that time when you walk her in and leave..but then come back and wait inside for her. And now you barely slow down the car enough for her to jump out to walk across the busy street on her own to her own lessons and friends. You give her $10 for a sandwich she will buy on her own down the block between classes and know she’ll be just fine. SHE CAN FEED HERSELF. AND WALK ACROSS THE STREET.  She dances mainly alone.

 

And you come back when she calls. Sometimes you even make her wait because you’ve got other errands to run. And this thrills her because she can giggle with her friends just a little longer. She dances a lot without us now.

 

A year where I have a few hours to myself – for errands or writing or honestly just watching Ellen and drinking a cup of tea with a cat on my lap, and I don’t feel guilty at all when I do this. I’m comfortable sitting alone against the wall of the dance floor just waiting my turn.

 

A year where Jed learns how to communicate with all the women in his home just a little differently. Who is now big and is who is still little. Who likes snuggles and who wants a high-five..and the acceptance that he’ll probably never get it all correct. He waits until someone invites him to dance.

turn-turn-turn

There’s a time in parenting – so early on that we feel it will never change because it’s just so much and so busy and so heavy. We dance in the quiet, dark living room at that midnight hour with a newborn in our arms, convinced we will never sit and rest again.

 

And then one day life just moves. Like a dancer turning again and again, we have a different view each year as our children’s needs change and our time changes for them.

 

And sometimes life moves so quickly that I am always a beat behind. But my kids have reached the age that they can tell me I need to catch up a little. Or when they are embarrassed by my dance steps that are no longer in fashion. I’m grateful for this.

 

For what my kids teach me daily.

 

For in this dance I am not the leader. They are.

 

I can only hold on for so long until they let go and turn and turn and turn across the floor as I watch in wonder. And when I finally realize that they don’t need my hand each time they turn, we both move smoothly across the floor.

*****

This essay was inspired by the photographs I took of my daughters dancing and for the prompt ‘movement’ – the theme this week for Through The Lens Thursday – hosted by my friends Alison and Greta.

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