My Tween

She turns 12 in about a week.

 

And she likes listening to Taylor Swift and wearing Converse.

 

She likes to hang with her friends.

 

And reading mature books.

 

And watching PG-13 movies.

 

Earrings and infinity scarves.

 

Skinny jeans and henna tattoos.

 

Begging for instagram and double piercings.

 

But she has littles sisters.

 

So she still plays with dolls.

 

And watching Doc McStuffins.

 

And plays with Play-Doh.

 

Makes littles breakfast.

 

Helps her get dressed.

 

And rides trains with her.

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Even when it’s the most uncool thing to do.

 

Because when you have a little sister.

 

You are already cool.

 

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On Broadway

I watched Esther in a play today. Her first non-classroom-at-school kind of play. For years I’ve tried to convince her to do theater. She’s a good singer, a great dancer, has a face that lights up a room, and expressions to match. Her most amazing attribute though is her ability to quickly and completely memorize ANYTHING immediately. She’s one of those people that you meet once and she immediately knows your name and probably your sister’s name, and where you were born. I wouldn’t put it past her if she actually knows that names of all of the 1500 students in her school.

 

But she has resisted my efforts to gently push her into theater. She’s shy at heart. And an introvert. And one who hates being in the spotlight, and honestly has some serious doubts on her abilities.

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So she very reluctantly tried theater this Fall. I even gave her an out. Typically once my kids sign up for something – I have a “no quitting” rule and they must fulfill the sessions that we’ve signed up for. Even if it means crying on the sidelines for five weeks(BEEN THERE!). But I told her that she could quit if she really felt uncomfortable.

 

But we didn’t have to worry about that, because theater has turned into one of her favorite things. And today she said that she has realized that she really likes acting and wants to do more.

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I’m so proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone. And for finding something she loves.

 

And maybe one day she’ll love seeing her name in lights and know that sometimes it’s okay to own the spotlight now and then.

 

What’s something that you would love to do but are afraid to try?

 

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The Anniversary

My parents celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary today. (STILL today for a just a few more hours..). 38 years you say – some strange math to have an almost 46 year old daughter. But that’s what I like about 2014. Unless you are over 40, this probably didn’t even cross your mind. Families these days are not the families of the 1940s. They are beautifully diverse. The definition of family in my vocabulary includes love and safety. That’s about all I need.

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But as a seven year old girl – whose parents had recently divorced. I’ll admit right now that I was less than thrilled when my mom told me she was marrying Jack. At seven I didn’t understand that he wasn’t coming in to replace my dad, or to take away my mom’s love for me, or to change our lives even more than I could handle at the time. And I still remember that conversation on our living room couch. Our living room with shag carpeting, orange curtains, and blue flocked wallpaper. I remember my mother telling me that she loved him and that we would love him too. And that he would never replace my dad.

 

I’ve written before that my parents did a lot of things right when it came to their divorce – how they still showed mutual respect for each other, never talked about each other in a bad way in front of us, selflessly let us decide where we wanted to spend our time, and when they were together  – they were friendly and cordial – and put us first. Always.

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And what I quickly found out as Jack also became my dad – was that he wasn’t there to take anything away from my dad or to replace him – no, he was there to just give us even more love. Here was another person who would now love us like a father – and like his own kids. Now who doesn’t appreciate even more people to love them? And it wasn’t just him. It was his extended family. Now we had more aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins. I’ve never considered anyone a ‘step’ – just family.

 

For 38 years we’ve just had a bigger family. And more love. Because my mom married Jack.

 

I see them now – still so in love. In fact they went out to dinner last week and a young and newly engaged couple at the table next to them paid for their dinner because they found them so endearing and in love with each other and hope that they still find themselves so outwardly in love in nearly 40 years.

 

I hope you both had an amazing day. And I’m glad you told that little seven year old that things would work out just fine.

 

Because damn they sure did.

 

Love you guys.

 

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Happy 70th Birthday, Dad!

So maybe I was a little bit selfish for getting mad when my dad moved to St. Paul. I mean I love being near my dad – but when he left Montana to be HERE by US – well he ruined a perfectly good(amazing) and cheap(free) vacation spot for us. “Oh Dad, why would you leave Montana? You’ve been there for so long and it’s home to you. And so beautiful. And there’s skiing…and we like to come visit…”

 

So maybe I pouted for a year or two because of the loss of our vacation spot. But that quickly went away as I got used to having my dad living nearby. And I totally understood why he did it – to watch his granddaughter(not plural then) grow up.

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And now selfishly I don’t ever want my dad to leave. He’s a hands-on grandpa – diapers and babysitting, trips to the park and helping with carpool. Spoiling the girls with little surprises, and now with tickets to professional hockey.

 

And there’s a rarely a Saturday without a non-fat latte delivery from my dad for me.

 

I never grew-up with grandparents near – but still have amazing memories of visits together. So I’m frankly verklempt about the magical relationship our girls have with my dad….their Papa Aubie.

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And I appreciate his patience and love for me as I’ve transitioned as a mother and how my time is now spent. Our mornings long ago of golf and tennis have now morphed into something completely different. For that I sometimes regret – but what I love the most about him is that he would never question my choices or challenge my decisions. There’s no one in my life as supportive, understanding, non-judgmental, and willing to just give me a place to lean if needed than my dad.
Everyone should have such a person in their lives.

 

And I’m forever grateful that he’s here. Close by.

 

Love you, Dad! Happy 70th. xoxo

 

 

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There’s No Such Thing As Normal

“Just stand like a normal person so I can get a quick picture before you leave with your friends.”

 

What’s NORMAL Mom?

 

“It’s not making faces at me and just standing still so we can be quick.”

 

Why do you want to take pictures of me anyway?

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“Because I want to remember you just like this at 11. My brain in getting mushy and old so I want pictures to remember 11.”

 

Well then you need to remember that I wasn’t normal at 11.

 

“No?”

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Because nobody is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. Normal is nothing. I’m me. Just me and for sure not normal.

 

“Really? Do you like being not-normal?”

 

Yep – it’s always good to be not normal. Maybe we should not even say normal anymore. Maybe everyone should just be weird. Because EVERYBODY IS WEIRD! I’m weird. So weird. I like being weird. I like weird friends. I like weird people. What if we just replaced the word “normal” with “weird” and then like nothing else would matter. Because you’d be all “Hey, act weird(instead of normal) and I’d be all like “No problem” – I can just stand here and I’m weird because I am weird and then everyone would laugh. Because the word “weird” is kind of weird, right?

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“You’re weird.”

 

I KNOW, right? See, now I can pose “weird” for you – because I don’t know what normal means. But weird – everybody can love being weird. Normal is nothing.

 

“So we should remove normal from all the books, all the dictionaries, all of our vocabularies?”

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I think everyone would get along better if we did. Normal makes me worry, makes me compare, makes me feel bad. Weird makes me happy and I like when people call me weird. I like people who like being weird.

 

“Sometimes I wonder why you’ve never had the girl drama at school like I did growing up, or like I hear about from my friends and their tweens lately. Why do you think you don’t or I don’t hear about it at your school?”

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Because we’re all weird mom. And we like being weird. I think people worry and feel jealous when they try to be and define normal. When it’s not their normal. I’ll never be normal because it doesn’t exist. So I don’t think anyone else is normal either. I find their weird thing. I have lots of weird things. My friends and I laugh about all of the weird things.

 

“I love you.”

 

Because I’m weird?

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“Because you’re you.”

 

So do you want just one ‘normal’ pose. Your definition of a ‘normal’ pose?

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“No because I don’t think there’s such thing as a normal pose anymore.”

 

I can stand still you know. For you.

 

“Okay.”

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But now I’ve got to dance again because I’m weird.

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What You Learn In Preschool

For the past several weeks I’ve been procrastinating yet lovingly agonizing over the end of year preschool gifts for Astrid’s teachers.  Because what do you buy the women who’ve made this first and amazing school impression on your child? A trip to Paris? A cruise? A new house? A pony? A pony and a ranch? A housekeeper for life? What gift truly matches your undying gratitude for what they’ve done for your child over the last two years? That’s when a generous gift card and flowers just seem so trivial for the gift that you’ve been given.

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(First day of preschool)

I file Preschool teacher under the category of jobs called “I don’t know how they do it.” Also filed in this category are nurse, air traffic control, fighter pilot, and brain surgeon. And maybe junior high school teacher too. Because damn 13 year olds can be hard.

 

So the gift of Paris isn’t unreasonable at all.

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Astrid is more than ready for kindergarten. In fact at the playground last week she climbed straight up the highest wall without help. When she reached the top she yelled “I did it Mama! See I’m big enough for kindergarten now!!” And she is  – physically, socially, emotionally, mentally – she is ready.

 

And I’m ready for her. And I don’t wish her to stay little or to have just one more year of preschool. But I lament over the fact that we have to say goodbye to her teachers. That they won’t see the completion of what they’ve helped create – a learner, a thinker, a creator, a beautiful mind and soul. That on her high school graduation – they can look and know that they had a part in this amazing life. How do I let them know they helped do this?

 

How do we say goodbye this week?

 

I’ve cried over it for the past month. Whenever a note comes home with an ‘end of school year’ event – I cry. Whenever I walk into school and think ‘only four days left’ I cry. Each morning as I kiss Astrid goodbye and then hug her teacher – I cry.

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Because these are the people and teachers I want in my kids’ lives – the people who lift them up and inspire them…

To just really enjoy life.

To sing more and dance often.

To color outside the lines.

To wear silly hats and shoes or no shoes at all.

To be a good friend.

To serve others snack before serving yourself.

To greet your friends.

To share and take turns.

To hug more.

To read good books.

To make more messes.

To paint with your fingers.

To know love from another adult besides your family.

 

Time moves and we sometimes follow it reluctantly. And I’m dragging my feet as we end this chapter and begin another. Not because I want to stay behind and live in the past, but because I want to carry the beauty of the past with us.

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And remember how incredible preschool is.

 

May this be the beginning of the magic of a lifetime of learning and love. And a celebration of the teachers each year who will make an impact on her young life.

 

And I hope her teachers don’t mind that we stop by to just say hello once in awhile. Because I truly cannot imagine a life without any of them.

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My Sister My Gift

“Really Esther? Seriously, I cannot believe you just can’t do that for yourself!”

 

“Astrid, you’re doing it wrong!”

 

“I’m not going to play those silly baby games!”

 

“You’ll never get it – you’re just a baby!”

 

There’s been a shift at our house in recent months. Three girls – sisters – who’ve spent years in a beautiful and harmonious dance are now breaking free into more solo endeavors. What were once choruses of kind words – “Let me help you.” “Do you want to play dolls together?” “I love you the ‘mostest’ big sister.”  – have turned a corner of life that now includes controlling comments, insults, and exasperations.

 

The previous quiet and joyous times when the three of them would play for hours – with dolls, games, creating art projects, and taking turns on the swings  – have turned now into spending time alone in a bedroom, looking down at a tablet to iMessage friends, begging a sister to play, being told that dolls are now silly, and little girls running into my arms in tears.

 

These three best friends can now barely be in the same room with each other for 10 minutes before an insult is thrown and a tear is shed.

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The whole parenting life I know was easy when it came to dealing with siblings – they just always got along. Now I have to choose between interfering in their fight, telling them to just ‘shut-it’, or to just go into the other room and silently cry for what I fear we’ve lost.

 

Because in my dream, in my world, in my mind – sisters are such a gift – how could you push them away like this. But telling a four and a nine and an eleven year old those words is just met with blank stares from short lives lived and lack of caring about the forever relationship they are currently pushing away.

 

And I know much of this current strife can be easily attributed to the Junior High School registration forms that we just completed. That my oldest daughter is changing and growing up, and that two year gap between and her and her sister is wider now than it ever has been. And I’m doing my best to give this older girl some grace and space during this time.

 

My mother has many stories to tell of living with sisters, as she has five of them. Six girls – split between two bedrooms and one bathroom. I know there were many typical sisterly fights in their house – about bathroom time, boys, clothes, and splitting up chores.  I witnessed a few of these fights as I was a child when many of my mom’s sisters were sill preteens and teens at home. And since I only had a brother – I longed to spend as much time as I could in my grandparent’s house of sisters, desperately wanting to be one of them.

 

I think most women look for connections in their lives with another women – a true confidant to talk late into the night with – someone who is an easy phone call away – someone you trust with your deepest truths – someone to have in your corner forever. And while friends can fit this and be this for you – no one knows you like a sister with your parallel growing up experiences.

 

My grandmother died eight years ago. My mom tells the story of her and her sisters(and their one brother) all holding vigil over their mother as she died. They played her favorite music and told stories of their shared past – holding their memories in the laughter and the many tears they shed that day. They held her hands, kissed her, and let their tears fall to her face as they all watched her pass together.

 

I watched them all from a distant during the next days of the funeral arrangements to the next months of deep and heavy mourning. The sisters worked together to plan everything and to make sure their dad was as okay as he could possibly be after losing the love of his life. And during this time I saw the words, jealousies, and hurts that many of them caused each other through the years of adolescence and adulthood just lift off their shoulders and hearts as they came together to mourn and to celebrate as a family unified. As sisters.

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A few months after their mother died – the six sisters took a trip together over Mother’s Day, as they knew how hard this day would be for them. And a new tradition was formed. And eight years later they now meet each year for a girl’s weekend to toast their mother and celebrate the gift that they were given with so many sisters.

 

Deep down I think my daughters already know the gift that they have here. And I can only hope that one day – after the teenage hormones are worked through, the boyfriend drama is over, they realize that they really didn’t have it so bad, and no one will ever know them and love them like a sister – that they will come together and celebrate the women who know them first and best.

 

I just hope they don’t wait until I’m gone to head to the beach each year – because I kind of want to join them.

 

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Introducing Oprah Chai Tea – $250 TEAVANA Gift Card Giveaway

If there are three things I seriously cannot get enough of – they are Oprah, good tea, and doing good for others.

 

Now you can have all three in one amazing package just in time for Mother’s Day! The new Oprah Chai Tea launched at Teavana on Tuesday, April 29th and I was there to sample the amazing product, learn more about how buying it gives back to others, and to shop for some fabulous Mother’s Day gifts!

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Oprah and Teavana invite you to Steep Your Soul by reflecting each day. Oprah created her own signature Chai blend with the master teaologists at Teavana – and it is amazing.

 

With a shared passion for tea, Oprah Winfrey and Teavana’s lead Teaologists personally developed a distinctive chai rich in cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, blended with black tea and rooibos.

Now available at Starbucks® and Teavana® stores and at Teavana.com, discover the blend as a loose leaf tea or handcrafted beverage. Each participating store also features Teavana® Oprah Chai boxed sets, ideal for any gifting occasion. And YOU help give back with every purchase – For every Teavana® Oprah Chai product sold at Starbucks or Teavana, Starbucks will donate to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation. This includes $0.25 USD for each Teavana® Oprah Chai tea handcrafted beverage, $1 USD per 2oz of Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea, $1 USD per Teavana® Oprah Chai tea tin, and $4 USD per large gift set.

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Teavana and I (and Oprah for sure) invite you to come to Teavana and try this amazing new blend. We invite my local readers to attend an amazing Mother’s Day tea celebration on May 11th from 2-3:30pm at the Teavana store in the Mall Of America in Bloomington, MN. The event will feature a tea tasting and attendees will receive a free gift! I hope to see you there!

[Read more…]

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How To Prioritize

I ran-hobbled down the basement stairs and grabbed a load of laundry from the dryer and transferred the next load in before carrying the heavy pile of clean clothes back up the stairs. I was still in my running shoes and clothes with my fuel and water belt strapped around my waist. As I was walking in the back door from my 18 mile training run I realized that I had left a wet load of laundry sit all night.

 

Typically when I come in from my long training runs I slip my shoes off, unsnap my fuel belt, pour a big glass of water, and lean into the kitchen counter to catch my breath.

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But last week, catching my breath seemed nearly as impossible as a ‘spa day’ or ‘lunch with a girlfriend’ or ‘shopping for new spring sandals in Milan.’

 

Last week was one of those weeks when you look at the calendar on Sunday and scan your eyes to the next Sunday and just hope that you make it through and it all comes together. That you don’t forget a child somewhere, that your four year old doesn’t mind sitting for hours for days as you have to bring them for work hours, volunteer hours, class hours, that you don’t disappoint someone because you just could not do it all, and my personal pet-peeve  – that you are late.

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And somehow – at 4pm yesterday when I walked in the door from the last ‘thing’ that was expected of all of us – we survived the week. And the last thing I wanted to do(all week really) was open my computer. Instead last night I poured a large cup of coffee, piled the two kids that were home on my lap, put blanket after blanket on us, and I took a nap while they happily damaged their brains watching Sam & Cat episodes OnDemand. It was bliss.

 

May is hard(I know, not May yet), but this still counts. From recitals, end of school projects, field trips, cleaning, wardrobe transitioning, school carnivals, yard work  and cleaning-up crap from the snow, finalizing camps, my own things – Listen To Your Mother, work, writing, making sure there are groceries and toilet paper, marathon training – life is busier than usual and we are surviving week by week and day by day.

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And I need to look at my own priorities or nothing will get done that should get done.

1. Family – Jed and the kids and all the school needs. Also the cat. It’s Astrid’s last year at home before school. If that means I play animal bingo 453 times a day until September, well that will be my priority.

2. Home – food and toilet paper and vacuuming and making it a relatively nice place to inhabit. I find that if I let our home go – it messes with my mind and overall happiness. I want to be here. I want to exhale when I enter our place. Lately I just want to slam the door and find another house that feels better.

3. Work – many of you probably don’t know I have a full-time job because I keep it separate from my blog and writing. But I do. With real hours and money. This is getting busier and it is what helps us have fun things as well as food – and my focus MUST be here before the blog – so I kind of think my focus is changing a lot as I put not only my time but more of my heart in what’s important. We have some pretty aggressive financial goals this year and this is where my focus needs to be.

4. Me – what feeds me right now – marathon training. I’m running a lot – nearly 60 miles last week and this will hopefully continue as long as I’m healthy and injury free. Working on LTYM – working with other writers, sponsors and our charity to give back. Friends. I miss having time for friends.

5. Taking pictures – I have the heart and equipment to do more with this. I need to carve out time. I’ve been saying this for nearly five years – and each year I say “THIS is the year!” and it’s not.

6. The blog and social media – I will still write(on paper)(on a word document) and submit other places – but I’m not sure what I’m going to have time on a regular basis here when I look at everything that comes above it. And maybe all these beautiful things always did come above this – but I wasn’t aligned with my own priorities – so I have words here but a house that is uncomfortably messy and too many email apologies to others for not getting a project done.

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I want the luxury of hobbling in after a long run knowing it’s okay to just lean and breathe at the counter for a moment. I want less emergency-I forgot trips to the laundry room and less last minute cereal and milk meals because life is too busy to slow down and focus on what I really should be doing. And if that means more silence here – than I need to have peace with that. And after this week of waytoomuch – I do.

 

But right now I need to get off of here and find a good and easy Bavarian cream recipe because I promised to make homemade eclairs for Eloise’s class tomorrow. WHY?????

 

Do you ever think and change and tweak your priorities. What comes first for you right now?

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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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